Sunday, September 14, 2003

Pepper gun wins converts at mall



By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SYCAMORE TWP. - Until Saturday, Coretta Rutherford's weapon of choice - if she ever needed to defend herself - was a rock in a footie sock tucked discreetly under the driver's seat of her car.

But after squeezing off a baby-powder-packed round from a handgun and watching as it slammed into the torso of a battered mannequin 10 feet away, she had an epiphany.

As the cloud of talcum dissipated, the 58-year-old Kennedy Heights resident, who had never shot a firearm before Saturday, resolved to buy a pepper spray gun.

"I hesitated as I started to pull the trigger," she said at the makeshift shooting range set up outside the Parisian store at Kenwood Towne Center.

"I kept thinking this is a gun and I could kill someone. But then I realized these pellets - even if they were filled with pepper spray - wouldn't kill anyone. And I fired."

Rutherford was one of dozens of Greater Cincinnati residents who attended the three-hour, hands-on demonstration by PepperBall Technologies, Inc.

She is the kind of customer the San Diego-based business hopes to attract with its $280 gun, said Jose Marrero, president and CEO of the company, which touts the motto "Kill a threat ... not a person."

Abe Caldwell, of Pleasant Ridge, also test-fired the weapon Saturday.

A gun owner in his 50s, Caldwell said the pepper spray weapon was something he would use in the event of a home invasion.

"It would be wise to shoot to stop, rather than shoot to kill," he said. "You never know someone's intent and if they're breaking in to steal something that's different than if it's somebody who wants to do harm."

Police officers have worried that arming the public with anything that looks like a real gun can be dangerous. And that pointing a gun at a burglar could backfire.

Marrero discounted the concerns. He said the gun is considered non-lethal and its pellets will only break when fired from the gun.

Called "The Neutralizer," it looks similar to a 9mm semiautomatic with a scope.

Marrero said the pepper pellets won't kill. "They won't even really seriously injure someone," he added.

Steven and Michelle Horton, of Dayton, Ohio, also tried the gun Saturday.

The Hortons were in Cincinnati so Steven could take the police exam for Madeira, while Michelle used her time to shop.

Steven Horton works as a police officer in Russells Point, about 70 miles north of Dayton.

He said he liked the gun because it was safe to have in the home and easy to use.

"You don't want something that your children might get and can hurt themselves with, and you don't want something that can be used to hurt you."

E-mail mmccain@enquirer.com




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