Concerns over the public use of taser stun guns

Thursday, July 15th 2004, 10:43 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa Police officers are just weeks away from receiving their new taser stun guns. Turns out regular folks might soon be carrying them, too.

Sharper Image plans to start selling the tasers through its catalogs and retail stores this fall, and that has police officers talking. News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright gets their take on this new weapon hitting the streets.

Tasers look like lightweight guns but instead of shooting bullets, they shoot probes that are attached to wires that give the person a 50,000-volt electric shock. It's supposed to incapacitate even the strongest people with minimal long-term effects. Police have mixed feelings about them being widely available to the public.

Tulsa Police Sgt Rick Bondy: "For the average citizen, it's a great defensive weapon. You can keep your distance and don't have to kill someone, but, if you're a bad guy, they're an even better weapon because you can disable people and disable police officers and the penalties aren't as stiff if you use a gun."

Tasers have been for sale on the internet, but with Sharper Image getting ready to carry them, some fear, they'll become more widespread not just among good people, but also the bad ones. Sharper Image says it doesn't expect criminals will go out and buy a taser for a $1,000 when they can get a gun for $150 to $300. Plus, they say they'll give training to every person who purchases one, but police wonder if it'll be enough.

Officers say they will treat tasers as they would any other weapon they encounter on a suspect. "I don't see it making our job that much more difficult. Whether you have a taser or brass knuckles or a knife, we're going to meet that threat. We won't treat it much different than a regular gun."

While Tulsa doesn't have a specific law against carrying a taser, there is a law that says people can't carry offensive weapons of any type and tasers could be covered under that. Seven states and many cities currently have laws banning tasers. Tulsa County prosecutors say it's likely a person who uses a taser on someone when it's not self defense, could be charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.

The tasers have ID chips in them so police can trace the owner after it's been fired. The police tasers will also be able to tell how many times an officer pulled the trigger.