Skip navigation

Taser Generates Buzz 2001

Download original document:
Brief thumbnail
This text is machine-read, and may contain errors. Check the original document to verify accuracy.
Phoenix, AZ
Mil Ar..



enerates a

Jack KurtzIThe Arizona Republic

Steve Tuttle, director of government relations at Taser, demonstrates the use of one of the company's non-lethal weapons, which fire darts, then deliver a temporarily debilitating shock to their victim.

Airline security concerns boost stun-gun firm
By Hal Mattern
The Arizona Republic

It was anything but business as usual last
Thursday at Taser International, a little~
known Scottsdale company that makes
electronic stun guns for law enforcement
That morning, United Airlines an~
Daunced that it would put mo(e than 1,000
of the company's stun guns in its aircraft
cockpits to help pilot:3 fend off hijackers
without damaging the planes, prompting a
flood of inquiries about Thser International
and its products.
By midda.y, the company's stock price
had surged by 20 percent and the phone
lines at its headquarters near Scottsdale
Municipal Airport were buzzing with calls
from investors and the national media. And
the calls are still coming this week.
"We knew that the United announce-

If the federal government approves United's
plans to equip its cockpits
with Thser's stun guns,
there is speculation that
they eventually could become standard equipment
on commercial airliners in
the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. If that hapTom
pens, laser International's
sales could double.
That would be quite a change for a company that only a few years ago was struggling to make its payroll and whose stock
has been publicly traded only since May.
The company has 50 ~mployees.
The Smith brothers became interested
in stun guns after an early 1990s road rage
incident left two of Rick Sqtith's former
high school buddies dead from gunshot

How the Advanced

Fire: The laser fires two darts up to
21 feet.
Strike: The darts are connected to the
weapon by wires and attach themselves
to an assailant's skin or clothing.
Shock: When the darts hit the assailant,
powerful shock
.. laser sends a.....


lASER Airline security
concerns boost business
From Page DI


would be the perfect non~lethal alternative to
handguns for self-defense.
Rick Smith headed to Tucson to work with
Jack Cover, who invented the original Taser
stun gun in the 19705. Working out of a garage
with materials purchased at a local Ace hardware store, they eventually developed an im~
pro'led version of the stun gun, called an Air
Taser, which uses compressed nitrogen instead
of gunpowder to propel the darts.
The Smiths began selling the AirTaser in 1994
at such stores as Sharper Image.
Over the next five years, they developed the
pistol-shaped Advanced Taser, a more powerful
stun gun that can fire darts up to 21 feet, delivering a 26;watt electrical charge that has been
described by victims as feeling like a full~body
muscle cramp. The darts, made from straightened fishhooks, are connected to the gun by two
strands of wire. They can deliver a paralyzing
shock through 2 inches of clothing.
Despite the Taser's effectiveness, it was slow
to catch on as a self·defense weapon.
"It was perceived as a gadget," said Rick
Smith, Taser International's chief executive officer. "People would say, 'If it is so good, why
don't the police use it?' So we changed our focus
and decided to build a strong foundation by marketing it to police departments."
The first Advanced Tasers were sold to police
in late 1999, and now are used by morethan 1,000
law enforcement agencies in the United States,
Canada and Europe. The company's sales are ex~
pected to top $6 million this year, double last
year's results.
Air Thsers sell for about $100, while Ad~
vaneed Tasers cost between $400 and $600.
Until recently, the most powerful Advanced
Tasers were sold only to police agencies. But after the terrorist attacks; the Smiths decided to
market them to airlines as a solution to aircraft
security. They asked Arizona's congressional
delegation for assistance in persuading the fed~
eral government to allow the use of stun guns on
airplanes, and even zapped one of Sen. John Mc~
Cain's staff members with a Taser during a demonstration.
The use of stun guns in cockpits has been en, dorsed by the Air Line Pilots Association, and
the airline security bill signed by President
Bush on Monday allows the use of non-lethal
weapons in cockpits, pending Federal Aviation
Administration approval.
Phoenix-based Mesa Ai'r Group Inc. also
plans to use Tasers, while British Airways and
American Trans Air are considering using
them. Since the United announcement, other
airlines have approached Thser about using the
guns. The company wouldn't identify them.
The nation's commercial airlines operate
about 20,000 planes, and each cockpit could be
equipped with two stun guns. Taser officials
said use of the guns eventually could spread to
cabin crews.
Even so, police agencies are likely to remain

Jack KurtzIThe Arizona Republic

Electric shocks dance across a target after it
was shot by a laser.
the company's biggest customers. The New
York Police Department, which is evaluating
the stun guns for use by its 60,000 officers, could
end up buying more Tasers than the entire airline industry, Ibm Smith said.
- But he isn't complaining about all the atten~
tion resulting from the United deal.
"We couldn't interest anyone two years ago,"
he said. "Now there are investors and bankers
calling us. This was a big PR boost for us."