Taser Maker ‘Pauses’ Project To Put Drones Equipped With Stun Guns In Schools
Axon Enterprise, the $7 billion manufacturer of the Taser, used by police to immobilize people, proposed a solution to the epidemic of mass shootings in schools: attach its electric stun guns to drones, which it said could be used to take down an active shooter remotely in 60 seconds. The plans were unveiled on June 2, just a week after the killing of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Three days later, on Sunday, Axon CEO Rick Smith confirmed the company is “pausing” the project, amidst a backlash from its own ethics committee. “Our announcement was intended to initiate a conversation on this as a potential solution, and it did lead to considerable public discussion that has provided us with a deeper appreciation of the complex and important considerations relating to this matter,” Smith said in a statement. “I acknowledge that our passion for finding new solutions to stop mass shootings led us to move quickly. In light of feedback, we are pausing work on this project and refocusing to further engage with key constituencies to fully explore the best path forward.”
Reuters reported that as many as nine members of the company’s ethics committee had planned to quit over the project. Smith was keen to stress he wanted to hear “alternative opinions,” such as those from his ethics panel.
“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,” Smith said. “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.”
Smith stressed the Taser-equipped drone was more a “concept” than a real product, though the company had announced on June 2 that it had started development of the technology. The aim was to produce “remotely operated non-lethal drones capable of incapacitating an active shooter in less than 60 seconds.”
Axon has long found itself at the center of controversies around policing, in particular around use of the Taser, which has been linked to a handful of deaths in recent years. The company has repeatedly defended its technology, saying it should help prevent deaths from police shootings. It recently partnered with various drone companies, including Californian startup Skydio, to push forward with its aerial ambitions.