Taser International (TASR) shares plunged early Friday, as the highflying and highly controversial maker of stun guns lowered first-quarter revenue guidance, blaming "significant adverse publicity."

The company forecast revenue of $10 million, vs. a consensus of $13.6 million, according to Thomson First Call.

The company said negative publicity had caused a "temporary disruption in our sales pipeline," adding that it experienced a "significant disruption in the flow of new business in the first quarter."

"The first quarter also brought answers to many of the inquiries regarding the safety of Taser products. Independent reports on Taser safety have been released from the Home Office of the United Kingdom, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, and the United States Department of Defense Human Effects Center of Excellence. These studies have supported the view that Taser devices, while not risk-free, are generally safe and reduce the risk of injury or death," the company said.

As a result of the negative publicity, Taser said it is taking two major steps. It has assembled "a team of experts to advise the company on public education and public relations issues," and has launched a "customer and public education campaign," including personal visits by senior Taser management to key existing customers and prospective new accounts.

Taser is currently the subject of an informal

Securities and Exchange Commission

inquiry that is focusing on both the safety of its weapons and an order from a distributor that closed shortly before the end of the fourth quarter.

In early February, Taser reported fourth-quarter earnings that fell shy of analysts' expectations, earning $5.0 million, or 8 cents a share, compared with earnings of $2.8 million, or 5 cents a share, last year. Revenue rose 79% from last year to $19.2 million.

At the time, Taser said 2005 will be "challenging and exciting."

The heavily shorted stock has seen many highs and lows in its volatile life -- it traded for a split-adjusted 34 cents at the start of 2003 and as much as $33.45 in the past 12 months. In the premarket Friday, shares were trading at $10.51, down $1.49, or 12.4%.