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Devices offer control that stuns

Residents have mixed views about citizens’ use
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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TASERs offer citizens a form of self-defense. Some local residents believe they are great tools while others think they are abused. It is legal in the state of California for citizens to own, carry and use electronic control devices, sometimes known by the brand name TASER, for self-defense. Capt. John Ruffcorn of the Auburn Police Department said officers use their TASERs in situations that don’t require the deadly force of a gun. “The TASER provides us a tool so that there is larger difference between deadly force and non-deadly force,” Ruffcorn said. “Just our mere presence is force and then (to control situations) we go to verbal commands, and possibly chemical spray and possibly a baton. That TASER provides us another level of force.” Lt. Mark Reed, spokesman for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, said the Sheriff’s Office also uses the tool when it needs to control a situation. “An example would be if somebody was trying to attack a deputy and he didn’t feel it met the level of deadly force, then we could use the TASER to subdue them,” Reed said. According to TASER International’s website, law enforcement TASERS allow for a five-second charge once their barbs have reached their target, while civilian TASERs have a 30-second charge that is designed to allow the user to get safely away from an assailant. Officer Gary Hopping, of the Auburn Police Department, said an electronic control device is designed to disrupt the exoskeleton system, so while the charge is going through someone they can still breathe and blink. Ruffcorn said, as with any other types of force, TASER use is noted in Auburn Police reports. “If we were to use any other types of hands-on force, a chemical spray, a TASER, that would be documented in a report,” he said. Detective Rick Hardesty, with the Auburn Police Department, said it is a myth that a TASER alone can stop someone’s heart. “There is no documented evidence of an actual case where somebody’s heart was stopped from this,” Hardesty said. “There is already an associated factor involved (when someone dies).” Hopping said this could include someone coming down from a narcotic high. Cool resident Jennifer Drew said she has mixed feelings about civilians owning electronic control devices. “It’s kind of a Catch 22, because, like my daughter works nights, and I think it would be a wonderful thing (for her to have one),” Drew said. “I don’t think everybody should have access to them.” Drew said she would like everyone to have to have background checks and training before using the tools. According to the TASER website, anyone who buys one of the company’s products has to pass a felony background check before the tool becomes activated. Customers have to register the products with TASER International. Meadow Vista resident Patti Henderson said she thinks, with proper training, residents should be allowed to own the electronic devices. Henderson said she thinks it’s important for law enforcement to carry the tools as well. “It protects them,” Henderson said. “They are up against violent opponents. A lot of time addicts have a lot of strength, adrenaline rush, and they need to be subdued.” Although devices such as TASERs are legal, officers and citizens are still expected to explain why they were necessary in specific situations, Ruffcorn said. “(Citizens) need to be judicious in using them, as we expect our law enforcement officers to be,” he said. “(Officers) have to explain their actions to the chief of police and I any time they use force, and they could possibly have to explain it in court, as will a citizen who has to use force.” Reed said the Sheriff’s Office investigates situations in which electronic devices are used, and it is possible for citizens to get arrested as a result. “Yes they could be (arrested) if they used it improperly – if they were to use it to assault somebody obviously,” Reed said. “If they were to use it in self-defense then that would be different.” Hardesty said citizens should try to be as informed as possible about the devices if they decide to purchase them, and should practice using them regularly. “My advice is to make sure you are fully trained with the use of the ECD that you own, and that you are fully aware of the legal liabilities, local ordinances, and the financial liabilities if you were ever to use one on another person,” he said. Foresthill resident Marj Ridgway said she thinks citizens have a right to own electronic control devices. “I have no objection,” Ridgway said. “Anything that would help – we need to protect ourselves. When you are in trouble, seconds count.” Colfax resident Swend Miller said he thinks that simply due to human nature, TASERs are abused by law enforcement, and it’s not a good idea for civilians to own them. “I think it’s just absurd,” Miller said. “I really believe firmly in the rights of individuals, but that could be subject to such abuse – it’s terrible. (I think) police abuse it because they probably get caught up in their mission to subdue somebody. My heart goes out to them. They are trying to do a good job, but it’s still abused.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------ Electronic Control Devices It is legal to own and carry devices like TASERs in all states except for Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. Local TASER distributors: TDS Guns, 4881 Granite Drive, Rocklin, (916) 660-9091, Sacramento Black Rifle, 6671 Blue Oaks Blvd #2, Rocklin, (916) 771-3553 Price range: On taser.com TASERs range in price from $380 to $1,000 For other distributors, information, training opportunities: Visit taser.com ------------------------------------------------------- TASER sales at TDS Guns in Rocklin Although TDS Guns is currently waiting for the new model of TASER to come in, it does sell the electronic control devices. “When we had the other TASERs in stock I’d say (we sold) about 5 or 6 a month,” said Brian Thornsberry, store manager. Thornsberry said he recommends the TASER brand specifically. “I would go with the ones made by TASER (International) because TASER has a policy where if you use that TASER in self defense, they tell you to throw it on the ground and run to safety … and then they will send you a new TASER free of charge.” Thornsberry said although it is legal to carry an electronic control device in California, training is always a good idea. “It doesn’t matter what tool you use for self defense,” he said. “If you’re not trained on how to use it safely and properly it’s not going to do you any good.”