In 1969, the taser as we know it today was invented by John Higson ‘Jack’ Cover. In the 1960s, US authorities were faced with countless hijackings where an armed sky marshal could bring down a plane with the use of a gunshot. As a result they were searching for a weapon that could easily apprehend a suspect without killing him.
At the time, Cover was then a scientist working on NASA’s Apollo moon landing project when he came across an article about how a man had become immobilised by touching a fallen power line, but had survived.
He then began to think whether it would be possible to create a weapon that fired pulses of electricity instead of bullets that would render a person immobile, but avoid killing them. His garage soon became his office as he developed and created a flashlight-like device that projected darts attached to an insulated wire up to 15 feet with a brief jolt of up to 50,000 volts incapacitating an individual by producing muscle spasms that were uncontrollable.
After creating the new weapon, he decided to name it after a story written by the science-fiction writer Victor Appleton that he enjoyed as a child, called “Tom Swift and his Electric Rifle”, which happened to be about a boy who invented a rifle that fired electricity. However, the acronym TSER was a bit of a mouthful, so Cover decided to add an ‘a’, transforming TSER into TASER.
Of course, it wasn’t an instant success due to the fact that the darts were fired by gunpowder, which meant that the device was technically a firearm. Consequently, police forces were understandably wary of using them, while sales to the general public were out of the question. It was not until a newer version was created by Cover in 1993 which saw the darts propelled by compressed air that the market for the use of them increased and re-classified it as a non-firearm. This meant it could also be sold to the public.
Since the 1960s, though, the use of the TASER today is widespread as it is controversial; however TASER International, the manufacturer of the device, insist that the product is entirely safe with many police and prison officials across the US stating that the use of the TASER has greatly reduced situations of deadly force, particularly when taking people into custody.
The name of Jack Cover will forever be linked to the TASER, but it is due to him that law enforcement officials and members of the public have a way of defending themselves without resorting to the deadly use of bullets.