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Issue of the Week: Taser marketing


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Illustration by Holly Randall
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, December 1, 2004
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Is the Scottsdale-based company Taser International, Inc. ethical in launching a massive ad campaign within the metro Phoenix area?

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Laura Keslar
columnist

Government needs consistency in targeting false advertising

Over the past decades, the government has told companies to whom, what and how they can advertise.

It does this, it claims, in order to protect the consumer, to protect the children, to protect society. Although I am wary of government claims of protection and would rather see individuals make choices regarding their risks, this concept can only go so far.

There comes a point, when the information is not there - whether through fraud or negligence - and the consumer cannot make an informed choice. It is then that the government needs to fulfill its role and prevent fraud.

So in the case of Taser International, Inc., it behooves me to wonder why the federal government will continue to allow the company to make claims that have been proven false.

The company has marketed its Tasers as safe alternatives to guns; however, numerous reports and medical examiners have come out indicating that the stun guns were partly responsible in several cases in deaths. But despite the new information, Taser continues to market its guns as non-lethal in all cases.

When the federal and state governments have overreacted to the implications of ads like Pfizer's "Wild Thing" commercials, it's simply silly that they will let something that has been implicated as a cause of death to be marketed as "safe" and "non-lethal."

If the government is going to protect us from the lies about drugged-induced horniness, it's time it protected the public from lies that have the potential to kill. It's time for the government to at least act consistently.

Laura Keslar is a pre-pharmacy junior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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Susan Bonicillo Opinions Editor

Taser the best alternative

Nothing is completely non-lethal. Throughout the course of history people have been able to die from any number of things. A bottle of aspirin, a pound of salt, toasters, and a nice, fat stogie have all contributed to the mortality rate for humans.

That said, the current demonization of Taser guns as an instrument of evil is vastly unwarranted.

Granted, people have died in the use of Tasers. However, the number of deaths by Tasers is minimal, statistically speaking. In the past four years, 74 people have died in both the United States and Canada from Taser use. Going by the numbers, that's a little over 18 deaths per year. Opponents who say that Tasers puts the public in danger would be hard-pressed to assign such an evil reputation to Tasers when automobiles kill more people in a month.

Though Tasers seem like a gentler, kinder alternative to other sources of protection they are not entirely without fault.

In a Department of Defense-sponsored study, researchers urge further investigation into the effects of Taser injuries. However, it should also be noted that researchers also acknowledge that occurrences of serious injury and death are exceedingly rare. It must be stated that those with heart-related problems or have illegal substances in their systems are more susceptible to death when stunned.

Tasers are not entirely non-lethal. However, they are a far better alternative to protection than guns. Although advertising is far more obsessed with the image of a product in today's culture, the essential point of advertising is to give the public knowledge of a product whose properties greatly improve their lives. Making consumers aware of Tasers as a much more humane means to protect against the dangers in today's world should not be inhibited.

Susan Bonicillo is a junior majoring in English. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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Brett Barry
columnist

Tell the whole story

As if our society needs further motivation to be living our lives in fear of all possible bad things that could happen, here comes the marketing of personal Tasers by Taser International, Inc. For those of us who are constantly terrified of being attacked by unknown assailants, a Taser may be the solution to feeling that false sense of security that carrying a weapon can bring.

Tasers offer a good "non-lethal" alternative to guns for law enforcement officials. They get involved in stand-offs pretty frequently (which is when Tasers are most useful), and they don't want to use their guns unless necessary. But why should Taser International be allowed to market their Tasers to the public - especially when any advertisement would likely leave out much of the questionable aspects of their product?

For instance, the company's Web site repeatedly states that Tasers are non-lethal, but The Arizona Republic has found that Taser strikes have been linked to nine deaths since 1999. Would that be in the ad?

And how the effectual is the Taser in self-defense? Would any ad tell potential buyers how you are supposed to be at least 7 to 10 feet away from your attacker to use the Taser? I always thought that when you get attacked, you usually don't get a warning and aren't typically given the time to pull your trusty Taser out.

Honestly, I don't think that companies should be allowed to advertise weapons publicly. But if they are allowed to market their Tasers, then they should be forced to tell the whole story and explain the dangers of using them.

Brett Berry is a regional development senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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Advertising only temporary

Because Tasers are weapons like knives, guns and sprays, I don't believe their public advertising will last that long.

The huge difference between Tasers and other weapons is that Tasers are non-lethal, supposedly. With the police officers around the world, there seems to be a common trend of Tasers replacing guns.

I can only imagine that for the public, besides safety, the huge selling point is that it won't kill your attacker.

But what happens when everyone who owned guns replaces them with the "safer" alternative? Being someone who can't really fathom shooting someone - much less shocking them - I don't believe Taser International, Inc. will pick up a lot of newcomers who have never owned a weapon.

Advertising is not very common for similar weapons whose rate of injuries and casualties is as high as guns. Weapon use is rather polarized: either you're willing to shoot a gun or you're not. Many people can watch soldiers perform their "duty" and kill the "bad guy" with glory, but not everybody feels comfortable killing someone in their own home.

As for the future of Tasers, based on the advertising record of most weapons, I doubt that they will ever make billboards or TV commercials long-term.

Besides, isn't violence 10 times more extreme in movies, songs and on TV than it has ever been in advertisements?

Lauren Peckler is a sophomore majoring in English and sociology. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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Ryan Johnson
columnist

Put fact-check in marketing of tasers

Sometimes, facts are facts.

Scottsdale-based Taser International, Inc. has been riding a high wave of growth since mere weeks after Sept. 11, 2001. Its stun guns are now so common that every police officer in Phoenix has one. Now they're marketing them to consumers.

But before we go saying they're a safe alternative to guns, let's look at one of the maker's claims: that the guns have never caused a single death or serious injury.

In fact, 77 deaths have occurred after Taser use, nine to 13 of which medical examiners concluded were directly caused by Tasers.

So how can the company go on saying that the gun hasn't killed anyone? It shouldn't be able to.

More generally, the lack of consumer knowledge on this product is a problem that needs to be addressed.

And if consumers' only source of information is Taser ads, they're likely only to get one story. So what do we need to do? Strict oversight of any marketing done for the guns. Possibly public service announcements or other public awareness mechanisms couldn't hurt, either.

As is always the case, more information is better. Regardless of your take on Tasers, you should want people to know more about them.

Ryan Johnson is an economics and international studies junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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Moe Naqvi
columnist

Tasers subdue strong men

For years, women have been able to drive away attackers with the painful pepper spray. However, the efficiency of pepper spray isn't as high as one would like to think. Many times an attacker can immobilize an individual before they can even reach for the spray. And even if the defender grabs the spray, the chances of it being slapped out of their hand are rather high. However, thanks to Taser International, Inc., people can now go out, buy Tasers and kick butt with the push of a trigger.

Males are usually the gender convicted of attacking others and we must all admit that men are strong. But men lose all strength when they are being Tased. Tasers are much powerful than the antiquated pepper spray and can easily bring a man down to his knees. In order for pepper spray to work, it has to be directly pointed in the eyes. However, if one utilizes a Taser, the user has a wide range of target points. One could Tase an individual in the groin or chest area and receive the same results, whereas pepper spraying an attacker in those areas would just make it look like they are really messy at drinking water. There are no limitations to body parts a Taser can be aimed at to produce full effectiveness.

The promotion of Tasers is a good idea because they provide much more force with much less mess than guns or pepper spray. If offenders know that there are more Tasers in people's hands, then it is likely that attacks will reduce.

Tasers are the perfect Christmas present for those who are in a hurry to get through a long line at the mall or who just can't really defend themselves. They range from $400 to $1,000; go get one now!

Moe Naqvi is a physiological sciences freshman. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.



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