At least 50 deaths in the U.S. since 2001 are linked to Taser stun guns, according to autopsy reports and research compiled by Amnesty International.
Tuesday’s report generated headlines from Britain to Iran. Though it’s not the first time deaths have been reported following police Taser strikes (Amnesty now counts 334 in the U.S.; the Arizona Republic counts 400+ in the U.S. and Canada), it is the first time an organization has reported that there are at least 50 deaths in which coroners and medical examiners have cited the Taser as a factor.
It was just one nugget in the 130-page report. There were recommendations regarding Tasers (suspend use or limit them to life-threatening situations); chilling examples of misuse; and other noteworthy statistics—for example, of the 334 people who have died nationwide since 2001 following police Taser strikes (Amnesty’s count), 90 percent were unarmed. Newspapers from Boston to Las Vegas jumped on the report.
But Wall Street didn’t care.
A quick primer: Government agencies are the biggest purchasers of Tasers (thus comprising a huge chunk of Taser International’s revenue). Those agencies are ultimately responsive to voters and taxpayers. Negative headlines can sway public opinion, which in turn affect decisions made by policymakers (e.g. equipping the local police department with Tasers). So when cities decide not to buy Tasers it impacts the company’s sales, thus Taser’s stock price. (Taser CEO Rick Smith has talked about this, and we detailed it in “Gannett Papers Shocked by Taser’s Claims.”)
In this case, however, Amnesty’s critical report didn’t impact investors. Between Monday—the day before Amnesty released its report—to Wednesday’s close, Taser’s stock price jumped 15 percent. By comparison, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and the Nasdaq—the market Taser shares trade on—were up about four percent.
This isn’t the first time investors didn’t punish Taser because of a negative Amnesty report. In November 2004 Amnesty released its first full report on Taser-related deaths, also on a Tuesday. Between the previous day’s close (Monday) to the following day’s close (Wednesday) Taser’s stock price went up 11 percent. During that same period the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq barely moved—both markets crawled about one percent higher.
Amnesty International, it seems, doesn’t carry much weight on Wall Street.