Taser International to Implement Background Checks on Its Buyers

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Taser International Inc. is hiring a company to conduct criminal background checks and verify the identity of private citizens trying to buy its stun guns.

Taser chose Atlanta-based ChoicePoint Asset Co. to provide online criminal background information and identity verification, said Rick Smith, Taser's co-founder and chief executive.

He said the checks confirm Taser's commitment to ensuring its devices, ``designed for personal safety and citizen defense, are purchased for those very reasons.''

Taser sells its stun guns primarily to law enforcement agencies but has more recently been marketing them to the public. The company has advertised on billboards and in newspapers in the Phoenix area.

The stun gun can temporarily paralyze someone with a 50,000-volt jolt of electricity.

Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle did not return a call Monday for comment on company sales to private buyers.

In recent weeks, Scottsdale-based Taser International has been pummeled by a federal inquiry into claims the company has made about the devices' safety records and an informal Securities and Exchange Commission probe into sales that were possibly inflated.

Several newspapers have also raised concerns about the safety of Taser devices, though the company has said its stun guns never have caused serious injury or a death. The Arizona Republic has linked Tasers to 11 deaths and to several injuries involving police officers.

Some medical specialists have also said there is a possibility the electrical shocks may exacerbate a risk of heart failure when people are agitated, have existing health issues or are under the influence of drugs.

The background checks will focus on criminal history and verifying that would-be buyers are who they claim to be, ChoicePoint spokesman Chuck Jones said.

He said Taser will set the criteria, ``and ChoicePoint will then simply review available public records to determine whether or not an individual has anything in their background that would disqualify them from purchasing a device from Taser.''

ChoicePoint, formerly the insurance services division of the credit agency Equifax but a separate company since 1997, has databases with approximately 19 billion public records, Jones said.

It provides information and credential verification services for businesses, government and individuals, and helped conduct initial screening of airport screeners for the Department of Homeland Security, he said.