Taser is an interesting less-lethal tool popular amongst law enforcement agencies. It works by firing darts into an assailant which are attached to conductive wires, zapping an aggressor with powerful pulses of electricity. This overloads the body’s electrical system, interfering with sensory and muscular systems.

Taser is undoubtedly a great tool for law enforcement and has saved many lives while giving law enforcement officers less lethal options.

Recently Taser has come out with a civilian model called the C2. While I don’t have an issue with people carrying or using them, I have a real issue with the way they are marketed to the public.

I was surprised to see a civilian Taser infomercial on TV. My main issue comes from the way that Taser is presented as the only self defense tool a person needs, just point, shoot, and get away. I believe this may instill a false sense of confidence in those purchasing the civilian Taser as it is a highly limited weapon.

  • The Taser is a single shot weapon, the C2 model cannot be reloaded. If you miss, you are basically done with this weapon. If there are multiple attackers, what then?
  • The Taser suffers from the same limitations as every other weapon, it is only effective if it is in your hand, safety off, and pointed in the right direction exactly when you need it. The C2 model is marketed as small enough to fit into a pocket or purse. Since you don’t use your Taser every day, it would quickly find itself at the very bottom of a purse or bag. Imagine trying to root that out while being attacked.
  • One of the marketing points is that the Taser works on someone up to 15 feet away. This is a fine advantage, but most attacks happen in the space of the phone booth. People don’t mug you from 15 feet away. If you are touching someone while tasing them you may be affected as well.
  • The civilian unit comes with some training materials,  but no one on one training is offered that I have found. Why do professional law enforcement officers have to go through training on this system but civilians do not? All weapons, including pepper spray, require training.
  • My main issue with the marketing is the attitude it engenders – “now I have this weapon I am OK.” I have seen this with my students who carry guns, knives, and pepper spray as well. Professional warriors (law enforcement and military personnel) train with multiple weapons platforms as well as empty hands. Defensive tactics come into play in law enforcement far more than firearms or Taser use.
  • The appeal of less-lethal self defense is understandable, however, there is no such thing as non-lethal self defense. There have been deaths from the use of Tasers, there is a risk of injury from a subject falling, cardiac incidents can happen. Certainly Tasers are less likely to injure or kill than firearms. While we don’t provide any kind of legal advise or guidance – it is unclear under what circumstances tasing someone might be considered excessive force.
  • If you carry a Taser, pepper spray, knife, or other weapon onto a plane, into a school, some college campuses, government buildings etc. you may subject yourself to arrest. A friend of mine who is a federal park ranger had to refer a 19 year old college student to the FBI for possible arrest because she forgot she had a stun gun in her purse when entering a national monument.

As a civilian or law enforcement professional, empty hand self defense should be the platform for all other skills. If you carry a weapon, consider your empty hand skills a bridge to allow you to get to that weapon if a determined attacker physically assaults you. If you are going to carry any kind of weapon get qualified training, learn the law, carry legally, store safely – do everything by the book.

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