Business & Economy

‘We won’t need bullets’: Taser boss says electric gun saves lives


Rick Smith, founder of Taser-maker Axon, pointed one of his company’s yellow stun guns at a target and discharged its electric darts to demonstrate its effectiveness at a security fair outside Paris.

Grant Smith Health Insurance

The weeklong conference in Villepinte ending Friday featured rows of firearms and tactical gear used by police forces.

But Smith believes Tasers, which send out an electric pulse through wires, will increasingly replace traditional weapons.

“I believe, if we do our job right, in another 10 or 20 years, we will not have to shoot and kill people anymore, because we will have made Tasers so effective that we won’t need to use bullets,” Smith told AFP. 

“To me, it’s wild that we have not yet created better technology than using bullets on people.”

The Taser has been adopted by police globally and used more than five million times in the field, Axon says.

The company says it has already saved more than 286,000 people from death or serious injury.

“When the police use lethal force, they do not use it because it’s lethal, they use it because it is reliable. And anytime they kill someone, they will always say something like, ‘I had no choice’. Our goal is to give them a choice by making tasers more and more effective longer range.”

But the electric gun has attracted its share of controversy.

The NGO Amnesty International — also present at the Milipol security exhibition — says although fans of the Taser argue it saves law enforcement officers using lethal weapons, they are not risk-free.

“We realise that they can kill when they are misused or used by poorly-trained people,” said Fanny Gallois of Amnesty International France.

“In addition, they can be used abusively, to inflict torture and degrading treatment,” she said.

– Controversy –

Amnesty says it recorded 334 deaths linked to the use of electric guns between 2001 and 2008 in the United States. 

In 2021, a police officer in Britain was sentenced to eight years in prison for killing Dalian Atkinson, a former professional footballer who died in 2016 after being tasered for 33 seconds. 

Electric pulse guns have also been flagged by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Alice Jill Edwards, who has raised concerns about “the frequent use of the so-called ‘stun mode’, which is intended only to inflict pain”.

Her report also points out that both the European Court of Human Rights and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture have expressed “strong reservations” about the use of electric shock equipment in direct contact mode. 

Smith admitted “there have been some cases where police have been inappropriate”. He says Axon has introduced body-cameras which are worn by law enforcement officers, allowing “the public to judge whether the police were appropriate”.

The controversies do not seem to have dampened the company’s revenues.

Axon reported $1.2 billion in revenue in 2022 — nearly a 40 percent increase on the previous year — and is projecting turnover of $2 billion by 2025.

The rise in global tensions looks set to increase the need for the use of the weapons, Smith said, believing conflicts such as the Israel-Hamas war are “creating much more friction and tension within societies”. 

But the company’s ultimate aim, he said, is to get to the point where tasers are so reliable “that the gun gathers dust, and we don’t kill people anymore”.

Marie-Morgane LE MOEL

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