October 12, 2007
Stun guns are powerful enough to stop even the biggest person cold in their tracks. But for most stun gun owners, it's a personal defense tool.
"If you're out late and alone, you should have some sort of protection," said Gre Brier, who works at Dixie Pawn, Inc. along Rio Road.
But late Thursday night, two men used a stun gun in a robbery at the Exxon along Cherry Avenue.
Police call it an unusual weapon, and one not used all that frequently in crimes.
"I think that if you look at the overwhelming majority, there are probably more people that use them are law abiding citizens using them for protection, as opposed to this one highlighted incident where someone utilized it in a commission of a crime," explained Lt. Ronnie Roberts with the Charlottesville Police Department.
Stun guns are easy to get. If you're at least 18 years old, you can buy one for as little as $30. There is no background check necessary.
"These are non-lethal, and a lot of people feel comfortable with non-lethal defense," said Brier.
They may be non-lethal, but some stun guns can pack about a million volts, so stun gun retailers use caution when selling them. They have the right to deny a sale to any customer.
"There's always concern that somebody is going to use something for not its intended purpose, but as far as that goes, they're legal to obtain, whatever purpose the buyer has for it. You know, you can't guarantee what somebody's going to do with anything," said Brier.
While stun guns used in crimes are rare in the area, police could take action if they become a growing trend.
"We'll probably reach out to our legislature and look at what laws may need to be put into the books that will keep them out of the hands of some folks, and keep them from being used as a tool in a criminal act," said Lt. Roberts.
As for the store clerk, he was doing fine Friday afternoon. But he only got a quick glimpse of the two men before he was attacked. Meanwhile, managers at the gas station think the robbers may be regular customers. Friday night, police were following leads.
Anyone with information on the crime is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 434-977-4000.