As a young girl, my dad would give me $1.50 and let me go into Jonach’s and I would buy a Hardy Boys book. This didn’t happen that often, but it was a stellar day when it did. There was no problem picking out the book because I would have come in a dozen times and looked at them before the day I had money. But when I didn’t have a new book to read, I went to the library. They had so many of them and I eventually read them all.
I read the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books. Before them was Tom Swift and his books. Tom was a young inventor who resolved crises and foiled wickedness. One book of the series, Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, came out in 1911.
Jack Cover read the Tom Swift books growing up. In 1967, as a NASA researcher, he decided to make one of the gee – whiz gadgets from the series, explains a chapter in The Book of Bizarre Truths. He finished designing an electricity weapon he named the Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle, or TASER, in 1974. Tom Swift had never had a middle initial, but Cover inserted the A to make the acronym easier on the tongue.
Cover’s first electric rifle, the Taser TF – 76, used a small gunpowder charge to fire two barbed darts up to 15 feet. Thin wires conducted electricity from the weapon’s batter to the target, causing great pain and brief paralysis with little risk of death (except in the young, elderly, or frail). That worked fine with the police because they rarely felt compelled to take down children or senior citizens.
The police saw potential in the Taser. The TF – 76 held great promise as a nonlethal takedown tool.
Never underestimate the creativity – squelching power of government. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) wondered how to classify the Taser. Because it used gunpowder, they decided to group with sawed – off shotguns, which were illegal for most to acquire or possess.
That meant you could carry a .44 Magnum on your hip, but it was a felony to possess, much less use, an electric stunner that took neither blood nor life. The BATF ruling zapped Taser Systems (Cover’s new company) right out of business.
Taser Systems resurfaced as Tasertron, limping along on sales to police. In the 90s, a creative idealist Rick Smith wanted to popularize nonlethal weapons. He licenses the Taser technology from Cover, and began changing the weapon. To deal with BATF’s gunpowder buzzkill, Smith and Cover designed a Taser dart propelled by compressed air. They also loaded each cartridge with paper and Mylar confetti bearing a serial number. If the bad guys misused a Taser, they wouldn’t be able to eradicate the evidence.
A nightstick blow to the head or a 9mm police bullet are both deadlier than a Taser. So, today the debate revolves more around police officers’ over – willingness to use the Taser than whether or not they should carry one.
Good advice: Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use.
Famous Okie information: Vinita, Okla., was the first town in the state to have electricity. It is also the oldest incorporated town in the state.
Keep Going on Your New Years Resolutions: Talk to yourself with kindness.
Made me laugh: You don’t need a parachute to go skydiving. You need a parachute to go skydiving twice.
See you on the bricks soon!