Why Taser is a Crap Investment
I generally try to focus on foreign stocks on this blog, but I realize I haven't posted my Taser rant here. Given the news today that security tased a Phillies fan as he ran on the field last night, now seems like a good time to do so.
First, let's get this out of the way: I don't the Phillies and their fans are obnoxious. That said, someone running on the field does not deserve to be tased -- and security is playing a very dangerous game by doing so.
The investment thesis behind Taser, as I understand it, is that the company can give police and security personnel a more effective weapon that is also less lethal than guns to those on which it is used. It is, therefore, a potentially disruptive innovation. But here's the thing: Tasers are not replacements for guns. Rather, they replace non-lethal weapons such as billy clubs and mace. Most police departments have clear guidelines that state that if an officer is in a lethal situation, he/she is entitled to use lethal force. This is why people get shot when officers suspect them of having guns. An office would never use a Taser in this type of situation.
In other words, the question is not are Tasers safer than guns, the question is are Tasers safer than mace and other non-lethal means of force? And they are not. There have been many documented cases of deaths being caused by Taser, particularly if the person being tasered is already suffering from certain conditions and/or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Officers using Tasers also seem to treat them as non-lethal weapons, tasing people multiple times. This may be a contributing factor to the deaths the weapon causes.
Now, a Taser may be more effective than these other non-lethal tools, but if the police are in a non-lethal situation, I submit that they should be putting safety above convenience. All told, Amnesty International reports 351 Taser associated deaths since 2001 versus 61 pepper spray associated deaths since 1990. The Taser appears to be a potentially quite lethal non-lethal weapon, which should mean it will be ever more unlikely to displace the other non-lethal tools on a police officer's tool belt -- since it will never replace the gun. This is why the company is ultimately a crap investment.
Consider what the Philly DA said in a public statement calling the Taser a good tool:
They didn't use deadly force, he didn't pull out his weapon and shoot him and he used the Tasers.
But the Taser has shown a real propensity to be deadly. Imagine that 17-year-old Phillies fan was under the influence of alcohol or drugs and went running on the field and the Taser stopped his heart. That would be a disaster and further evidence of a horrible use of a stupid technology. After all, the kid is just running on the field creating a nuisance. Security should take the extra 10 minutes to control the situation in a responsible matter.