1974: NASA scientist Jack Cover invents the TASER, an acronym inspired by the children's adventure novel "Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle." The device resembled a flashlight and fired two darts, connected to the device by thin wires, up to 15 feet. Because the original Tasers used gunpowder, the federal government put them in the same firearm category as sawed-off shotguns, effectively prohibiting civilians from owning and using them.
1993: Brothers Rick and Tom Smith, founders of a company that designed non-lethal electronic weapons, contact Cover with a plan to introduce the Taser into the wider market; several years earlier, two of Rick Smith's friends were killed in a traffic argument, and he hoped to market the Taser as a self-defense weapon. Redesigned to use nitrogen propellant rather than gunpowder, the device is no longer considered a firearm and is now available for purchase by the general public in 43 states, with some restrictions. Tasers are now used by 11,500 law enforcement, correctional and military agencies in 44 countries, and 160,000 of the devices have been sold to private citizens since 1994.
2005: The Securities and Exchange Commission begins investigating Taser International's assertions about product safety and the trading of Taser stock. The inquiry ended in 2006 with no action taken against the company.
2005: The village of Dolton, Ill., files a class-action lawsuit accusing Taser International of misleading law enforcement agencies about the safety of the devices. Mayor William Shaw dropped the suit in 2007 and agreed to allow the company to replace the town's existing Tasers with upgraded models.