"When law enforcement tries to subdue somebody, they use a stun gun," said San Diegan Carolina Tafoya, "I guess to try and stop them."
"I don't think every day people are walking around with those," said Bill Perez, another resident of San Diego.
But these devices, which use electrical charges to subdue or bring an unruly person under control, are readily available to almost anyone. You can buy them on the internet, available on Amazon. They're also sold in many San Diego area firearm stores. In the state of California, no permit or background check is required for purchase; it's assumed that the buyer will use the device responsibly.
"One of my customers actually used her taser at a grocery store," said Robert Soldenski, general manager of California Police Equipment store in City Heights. "It was last week - someone was coming to steal her purse. She dropped her purse, took her taser out, she turned it on, the laser came on and the guy saw the laser. The guy didn't know what she pulled out of her purse and he ran away."
Soldenski's store stocks both tasers and stun guns.
"Two barbs actually make contact and penetrate the skin."
Soldenski showed KUSI how the taser works: when the user shoots, two metal barbs fly out. When the barbs enter the skin, the probes deliver electrical pulses which overwhelm the central nervous system.
"It's disrupting those signals that your brain is sending to operate your hands, your fingers, your feet."
In a Youtube video, the effects of the taser are obvious - the subject is unable to stand and can't control his movements.
"It would make you fall down, it's not going to make you unconscious."
Unlike the taser, stun guns require close personal contact and are not designed to immobilize although they are extremely painful. Stun guns are cheaper than tasers, typically selling for less than $100. As a means of self-defense, they can hurt or disable an attacker temporarily, legal to buy and use for almost everyone except minors under 18, drug addicts and anyone convicted of a felony.
"You probably could get one without a background check?" Queried Perez. "Wow, that could go wrong."
The regulations for the use of tasers and stun guns are similar to pepper spray and mace. But like any weapon that can cause harm, there's no way to prevent them from being used for the wrong reason in the wrong hands.
"There's no way you can control that," continued Perez.
"Even if they were to use mace, it's still a weapon that they could use on an innocent person," stated Tafoya.
The restrictions on tasers and stun guns vary from state to state. Tasers are outlawed for private citizens to use in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Hawaii and Washington D.C.
4575 Viewridge Ave. San Diego, CA 92123