RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
And now Taser is marketing to women, which means convincing suburban moms to plunk down nearly $400 to buy a metallic pink weapon that looks like a Star Fleet phaser and delivers 50,000 volts of low current electricity. NPR's Libby Lewis has this story on one sales pitch.
LIBBY LEWIS: Come on in to this cozy split-level in Fairfield, Connecticut. There's humus and pita chips and a target in the shape of a human body. This is a Taser party. It's the inspiration of Dana Shafman; she's from Scottsdale, Arizona, home of the Taser. Her independent dealership called Shieldher sells Tasers to women for personal safety.
MONTAGNE: Welcome to Shieldher's Taser party.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
LEWIS: Shafman's 35, she's likeable in that American go-get-'em kind of way. Her red suede cowboy boots go with her Second Amendment style.
MONTAGNE: You have a full right to carry this.
LEWIS: Though she doesn't need the Second Amendment - the U.S. government doesn't consider a Taser a firearm. They're legal in most states. Taser will sell you one if you are 18 or over and pass a felony background check.
MONTAGNE: In fact, I keep mine in my purse.
LEWIS: We're in one of the safest corners of America. In 2006, Fairfield had one homicide and three reported rapes, but as Shafman says we are next door to Bridgeport.
MONTAGNE: Twenty-eight murders and nine negligent manslaughter. Sixty-nine forcible rapes; 659 robberies.
LEWIS: And she has campus crime numbers for those with college-age children.
MONTAGNE: My last Taser party, somebody asked me a really good question and they said to me, do you think that you are scaring people into buying Tasers? My response to that is watch the news.
LEWIS: Debbie Deutsche, a mom from Fairfield, has a question.
MONTAGNE: Do you think law enforcement is afraid of seeing people out on the street with Tasers?
MONTAGNE: You know, I think it's a great question. I think that law enforcement is concerned about the issue.
LEWIS: Shafman raises the safety question head on.
MONTAGNE: It is not a lethal weapon. It has never been proven that the Taser causes death.
LEWIS: Well, that's an issue that's complicated and far from settled. More than 200 people have died after being hit by Tasers or similar electric shock weapons. The Justice Department is studying what role Tasers might have had in some deaths. Enough talk. It's time to shoot. Debbie Deutsche goes first.
MONTAGNE: Go ahead and open it up, aim, and go ahead and shoot.
LEWIS: The human target Shafman's brought is aluminum. It lights up when Deutsche hits it. Police Tasers go for five seconds. These Tasers deliver an electrical shock for 30 seconds straight.
MONTAGNE: Now, open it up and hit it again
LEWIS: And whoever's holding it can give repeated shocks by pressing the trigger over and over. Shafman says the idea is to let you tase a bad guy several times and then run away.
MONTAGNE: And who's next? Rachel?
U: Come on, Rae.
LEWIS: Pretty soon everybody's shooting.
(SOUNDBITE OF TASER PARTY)
LEWIS: Libby Lewis, NPR News.
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