TASER: Back to the Future

New York has Fashion Week; Las Vegas has tech week. Well, sort of. In Sin City, what I call "tech week" is also known as the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES. That's where dozens of new gadgets make their debut annually. It opens today.

And it's a fun time for those of us on the Motley Fool Rule Breakers team. That's because the best of the Breakers usually display their latest wares at CES. Two-time portfolio entrant TASER (Nasdaq: TASR  ) didn't disappoint.

This morning, after some buildup, the stun gun maker announced the TASER C2 Personal Protector, which, as it sounds, is specifically intended for private citizens interested in safety. But there's a hitch: TASER says its device is the first stun gun to include built-in technology for background checks.

Before activating the C2, buyers must either dial an 800 number or log into a secure website and complete a background check. That way, TASER says, the company ensures its devices aren't falling into the wrong hands.

That's a noble goal, but as Foolish community member MFOutlier writes in our Rule Breakers discussion board for TASER, "Background checks work fine for initial purchasers, but their effectiveness in keeping devices out of the hands of 'undesirable' users really starts breaking down on resale and/or loss through burglary." A better idea, our Fool writes, may be a mechanism to remotely disable the device in case of theft.

I agree. But no such feature appears to be forthcoming in the C2. Actually, there doesn't seem to be much innovation at all when it comes to this stunning sidearm. Chairman Tom Smith explains in the release, "We also eliminated many of the high-end professional features such as dataport management, digital displays, and the TASER CAM interface, enabling us to make the TASER C2 available at a lower price point, starting as low as $299.'' In other words: We stripped our high-end pistol so we could sell one to civilians.

But will they buy? Well, why not? Tom and Rick Smith saw protection-minded consumers as their primary customers when the company first opened its doors more than a decade ago. And history shows that less-lethal defense options can succeed in the mass market. Take pepper spray, for instance.

The C2 is unlikely even to be within spitting distance of the big breakthroughs we're bound to see demonstrated at CES this week. Good thing that's not the point. Instead, like Marty McFly, TASER is looking to its past to secure its future.

Don't expect similarly dramatic results. The military and law enforcement remain TASER's primary markets, after all.

Nevertheless, it's nice to see this stock story, which has been plagued by poor casting and even worse acting, finally produce an episode entertaining enough to be worth watching. Stay tuned.

A stunning array of related Foolishness is at your disposal:

TASER is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Get more insight on the company with David Gardner's no-holds-barred interview with Tom Smith. All that's required is a 30-day tryout of the Rule Breakers service. There's no obligation to buy and it's easy to get started. Just click here now.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers, ranked 820 out of more than 19,400 in Motley Fool CAPS, isn't easily shocked, but he's pretty sure a TASER shot would do the trick. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. Get the skinny on everything Tim is invested in by checking his Fool profile. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is a rebel with a cause.

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