In the late 1990's, following some years of research, a Scottsdale, Arizona firm called TASER (named after a fictional weapon, "Thomas A. Swifts Electric Rifle"), began marketing a pistol-sized "gun" designed to incapacitate humans through Electro-Muscular Disruption (EMD) technology, by causing severe muscle contractions through involuntary stimulation of both the sensory nerves and the motor nerves. Originally intended for police use, Taser International is also marketing a civilian model.
TASERS were introduced, or marketed as "less-lethal weapons" to be used to subdue fleeing, belligerent, or potentially dangerous subjects where the use of traditional instruments, such as batons, pepper spray or tear gas, or guns with live ammunition would have been otherwise used.
TASERS work by firing small penetrating darts into a subject, connected by wires to the electronic charge. Some augmented models also function as "stun guns" intended to cause intense, debilitating pain.
Anyone who has suffered an accidental electrical shock through ordinary household current, or even a strong snap from a static electric source, knows how terrifying this can be. Any electric shock strong enough to cause an individual to go into involuntary convulsions belongs high on the list of dangerous instruments.
Once introduced into the criminal law enforcement community, TASERS have rapidly gained support and popularity among front line police officers and their advocates. What greater thrill could there be than to "zap" a disorderly or uncooperative "perp" on the street? How much less strenuous and problematic--than physically subduing someone, using a baton, or threatening deadly force with a pistol? So clean and neat. Zap!
But tasers aren't safe. Several studies have shown that the charge used in TASERS is sufficient to cause cardiac or respiratory arrest in some people, and to cause others to go into physical shock. There are documented cases of people actually dying after being TASERed. It is impossible for a policeman--or anyone else, for that matter--to know what kinds of medical conditions or susceptibilities a stranger may have. Who can we trust with the authority to use TASERS when their potential danger is so great, especially for those who may be at risk for serious injury?
Because the technology is so new, there are no laws governing when and under what conditions these new weapons can be used. In addition, there hasn't been sufficient testing done to determine what the actual affects and risks are of routine police use on the street.
One can imagine that TASERS might be of use, for instance, in prisons, where large groups of hardened types might not otherwise be manageable. Historically, tools like high-pressure water, tear-gas, rubber bullets, etc., have been used to control crowds.
But these new toys constitute a completely new development in the use of technology to terrorize and bully individuals, and the communities where they live.
TASERS have most often been used to intimidate and "punish" individuals who aren't sufficiently compliant and obedient. With TASERS at their disposal, police officers are tempted to provoke and engage irresponsibly, believing that possession of these new space age short-cuts will shield them from the risk of charges of "police brutality" or provocative behavior.
It's only a matter of time--despite assurances from the manufacturers--that these devices will fall into the hands of criminals and others in the general population. Once the technology has been developed, it's difficult to keep the lid on their proliferation and abuse.
Hybrid forms of the new technology are now being marketed directly to the general public: "Stunning Pink" (pictured above), a new "personal safety device" works this way: "When deployed, 950,000 volts of electricity flow through the prongs on the end of the Stunning Pink into the body of the attacker. The initial shock interrupts the signal between the attacker's neurotransmitters in the brain and their muscular system. The interruption of this signal causes the attacker to immediately drop to the ground. The delivery of this level of electricity to the muscular system causes the insulin to vacate the muscles leaving only lactic acid behind. The lack of insulin in the muscles will cause the attacker to be temporarily immobilized, with no long term lasting effects."
It isn't hard to see how the use of such powerful devices could, and would be used inappropriately, or with malice, by anyone--normal or deranged--wanting to flex their gadget muscles.
As a matter of public good, these devices should be outlawed by all jurisdictions. Their use cannot be properly monitored, and the risk of serious injury is too great to leave to casual chance.