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Valley-based Axon building non-lethal taser drone CEO says could prevent mass shootings

The product won't be finished for two years but the company is announcing the controversial device now to answer all questions before it's ready.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A Valley-based company is working on a product the CEO says could help prevent a mass shooting. Axon says it is working on a non-lethal taser drone that could be deployed in schools in the case of an emergency.

"I get absolutely frustrated," said Rick Smith, the founder, and CEO of Axon. “The last major gun control act was passed in 1968 before I was born and the numbers have almost doubled in terms of the number of people killed since then.”

Smith said he didn't want to wait any longer so he's proposing a solution of his own - a taser drone that would be set up in schools ready to deploy if a gunman made it onto campus.

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“Think of it like a smoke detector, a piece of safety equipment that's on-site that's hidden away. Nobody needs to know it's there. And if there's a person who shows up to school with a gun, a teacher or any administrator can hit a panic button.”

Smith said that the panic button would then allow law enforcement to get a live look at the room with the device's built-in camera and then activate the drone. The goal is to incapacitate the suspect using the taser attached to it.

“We want to make sure we're designing the system with the right safeguards in place to make sure it can be used to protect people from mass shooting events but it can't be easily abused," Smith said.

Smith said transparency and oversight would be a critical part of the program.

"We must build the oversight and transparency systems into protective robotic technology from the get-go—both to ensure safety and to build public buy-in," Smith said.

Joe Deedon of TAC*ONE Consulting conducts active shooter training for school districts and law enforcement agencies. He looked into the plan Axon has released for the proposed device.

“Anything that we can do to add another layer of a response when our preventative measures fail, we need to take a look at them," Deedon said. 

Deedon is intrigued by the technology but notes the community will have significant questions, especially around safety and security.

“I think some of the biggest concerns with the community, with the school districts and whatnot implementing it, is going to be who has access to it and when it will be used," Deedon said.

"A technology like this is designed for the big game, right? For the active shooter where stakes are high. It's a deadly force issue," Deedon said. "So the first time this technology is used outside of that for a simple schoolyard fistfight or something like that, I feel like that's going to be a huge issue. So it's something you're going to have to address."

Smith said the product is two years away from completion but is announcing it now in order to give time to address those concerns. 

He believes a new approach to responding to these horrific mass shootings is necessary.

“I'm not going to wait another 50 years to see if legislators can handle it. We are going to step up and we're going to bring a real solution to the table," Smith said.

Smith is hosting a Reddit "ask me anything" discussion on Friday at 10 a.m. where any member of the public can ask him questions about the product.

You can find the link to the subreddit here.

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