COVINGTON - Tupperware parties are so yesterday. Today's woman is just as likely to need an effective method of protecting herself as a handy way to store leftovers.
So, all across the country, women are attending private parties to pick out and purchase their own personal Tasers.
It's a marketing blitz by Taser International, which is working with independent dealers to sell its products, and it's one that's paying off. The Taser craze is sending shockwaves across the nation. The parties, which emerged last year as a West Coast fad, quickly caught on, and now, the trend has made its way to Covington.
Sholanda Smith, a local associate real estate broker, will hold a Taser party Saturday at Brookline subdivision off the Covington ByPass.
Smith wants a way to protect herself because, as a Realtor, she often has to enter vacant houses and drive with strangers. Invitations to her party generated a positive response from friends, she said, and she's already considering holding another party next month.
Jennifer Perry, a consultant with Packing Jolt, an independent dealer out of Lawrenceville, said women find Tasers less intimidating than firearms.
"A lot of women are concerned about self-defense and protection. Maybe they don't want to carry a gun; they're uncomfortable with it. But a Taser is a more comfortable option," Perry said.
Packing Jolt Vice President Tim McCoy said the devices are "as easy to use as a remote control." What's more, they're effective. McCoy said the Tasers have a stopping rate of 96 percent, equal to a .357 Magnum.
The devices launch two probes up to 15 feet. The probes deliver a scientifically designed electric signal that makes muscles lock up, therefore, temporarily incapacitating an attacker for 30 seconds so the victim can get to safety and call 911.
Packing Jolt sells the C2 Taser, which is different from the models used by law enforcement, McCoy said. The C2 does not have the capability of recording data used by officers in court, but does utilize the same technology and stopping power in a smaller size.
The devices are small enough to fit into a pocket or purse, weigh about as much as a cell phone and even come in fashionable colors like metallic pink, electric blue, black pearl and leopard print. Most sell for $349.99.
While there are certified Taser trainers at some parties, and a training DVD is included with the purchase, customers don't get formal training or practice operating a Taser, McCoy said.
They are, however, required to undergo a background check by Taser International before the device can be activated, he said.
Local law enforcement officials say they don't have a problem with citizens carrying Tasers for protection, but cautioned it's important to know how and when to use one.
"I think people have a responsibility to protect themselves, and we certainly understand law enforcement officers cannot protect everybody all the time," said Newton County Sheriff Joe Nichols, who pointed out that Tasers are considered less-lethal weapons. "I think Tasers are much like firearms. Folks have a right to have them, a right to protect themselves, but they have to obligate themselves to make sure they know how to use these things and, whether it's a handgun or a Taser, that it's a reputable, well-made, reliable means of self-defense."
Keeping the devices out of the hands of children at home is also a concern, Nichols said, adding that there was an instance in a nearby county where a child found the Taser of a law enforcement officer who was a relative and used it on another family member.
While Police Chief Stacey Cotton said he supports "people being able to defend themselves against anything that places them in any kind of danger for their lives," he also warned that anyone who purchases a Taser should get some type of safety training.
Also, "Choosing when to use one is just as important as the actual deployment of the weapon," he said. "They need to know the appropriate time and place to use it and when to use it.
"It's one thing to use it for self-defense, but what if you get in an argument with your boyfriend and decide to Taser him in the parking lot. Is that justified? What will come of that?" he said.
As for the parties, Cotton said they're "a marketing ploy."
"There's nothing illegal about them," he said.
"You can irresponsibly use your car and irresponsibly use a baseball bat. As far as law enforcement, it's just another issue we have to deal with as it comes up," he said.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.