Going After the Civilian Market

Taser expands marketing to sell stun guns to police and civilians.

Silja J.A. Talvi

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Police officers aren’t the only people toting Tasers.

For a decade, Taser stun guns have been available to civilian buyers in 43 states. And in the last couple of years, the company has stepped up its marketing to make sure that the $999 Taser X‑26C Citizen Defense System becomes the home defense weapon of choice. Toward that end, Taser has demonstrated the civilian model in cities across the country. 

The X‑26C doesn’t differ significantly from the one used by law enforcement. Instead of a 21-foot range, the civilian model has a 15-foot range. It can shock someone for up to 30 seconds.

Early concerns about civilian misuse were pooh-poohed by Taser executives. Douglas Cote, manager of citizen sales, told the AP: “[W]e make the device. We don’t tell everybody how to use it.”

They certainly don’t. In August, two men armed with Tasers robbed two women outside of San Antonio shopping malls. In Pasadena, a man appropriately named the Taser Bandit” is on the loose after robbing a bank in October, armed only with his stun gun. 

In June, Clark David Thomas, 43, kidnapped his 21-year-old estranged wife, and held her captive in a North Charleston, S.C., hotel room for two days. Thomas bound the woman and then repeatedly stunned her with his Taser until she was able to make an escape.

And, it appears violent predators have caught on to a new way to torture their prey. In August, in Modesto, Calif., a serial rapist kidnapped and brutally raped a 27-year-old woman after stunning her with a Taser.

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Silja J.A. Talvi, a senior editor at In These Times, is an investigative journalist and essayist with credits in many dozens of newspapers and magazines nationwide, including The Nation, Salon, Santa Fe Reporter, Utne, and the Christian Science Monitor.
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