The firm that produces Taser stun guns was forced to reverse course after its CEO suggested it would create armed, “non-lethal” drones to deploy in American schools as a way to stop mass shooters, immediately triggering outrage from within the company itself.
Rick Smith – CEO of Axon Enterprise, formerly known as Taser International – issued a statement on Monday clarifying the company’s plans for the controversial drones, which he first outlined in a press release last week in response to several recent mass shootings.
“I want to be explicit: I announced a potential delivery date a few years out as an expression of what could be possible; it is not an actual launch timeline, especially as we are pausing that program,” he said, adding “We have a lot of work and exploring to see if this technology is even viable and to understand if the public concerns can be adequately addressed before moving forward.”
A remotely operated non-lethal Taser-enabled drone in schools is an idea, not a product, and it’s a long way off.
The company originally floated the concept as “part of a long-term plan to stop mass shootings,” with Smith declaring that it would create drones “capable of incapacitating an active shooter in less than 60 seconds,” even sharing an image of a mock-up design.
The plan quickly stoked backlash, however, with nine out of 12 members on an internal company ethics board resigning in response, citing “concerns the drones would harm over-policed communities” while claiming they were not informed of the announcement beforehand, according to Reuters.
The CEO indirectly addressed the resignations, saying it is “unfortunate that some members of Axon’s ethics advisory panel have chosen to withdraw from directly engaging on these issues before we heard or had a chance to address their technical questions,” though he went on to add: “We respect their choice and will continue to seek diverse perspectives to challenge our thinking and help guide other technology options that we should be considering.”