Shock and awe (C.P. Pandya)

Coming to an electronics store near you: high-voltage stun guns. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. Wall Street-darling Taser International, maker of “nonlethal weapons” (that have been shown on at least 40 occasions to contribute to death), said recently it is in talks with electronics chain Sharper Image, among other retailers, to sell “consumer-friendly” stun guns in the U.S. and Canada. For those of us not near a Sharper Image, Taser also plans to sell a “consumer-friendly” version of its 50,000-volt weapon on its Web site — just a shock and click away.

This very frightening bit of news thrilled Wall Street investors, who sent the stock’s value soaring 19 percent the day the deal was announced, June 25. The value of Taser’s stock has tripled in one year and the company expects its revenue to jump 150 percent from $24.5 million as orders for its weapons come flooding in. Just this past week, Taser received a $436,000 contract from the Dayton, Ohio police department and a $1.8 million from the U.S. military.

The increasing popularity of these very dangerous “nonlethal weapons,” is making it easier (if it wasn’t easy enough) for law enforcement throughout the U.S. and Canada to use excessive force in unjustified circumstances. The company has continually used the twisted logic so dear to corporate America that its product is actually helping save lives and cause less injury. But, Amnesty International has shown that police officers throughout the country have been trigger happy with the Taser gun even after they have a person in custody, simply because of the gun’s “nonlethal” categorization. Taser’s guns send 50,000 volts of electricity through a person’s central nervous system, causing them to instantly fall into a heap. But, since these guns aren’t marketed as killing machines, law enforcement officials seem encouraged to use them handily. Also, the after-effects of these guns hasn’t been studied, according to Amnesty, which has since February 2003 called for a ban on the guns.

The controversy surrounding this company has been discussed in the business press only as an afterthought to its enormous profitability. But ongoing news about Taser is available and I encourage readers to keep an eye out. Taser should be added to the “usual suspects” list of companies anti-corporate activists target – a list that includes dangerous and disempowering companies such as Wal-Mart, Exxon, Monsanto and Caterpillar. By July or August, we may be seeing these guns in stores – shocking thought.

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.