the Disillusioned kid: Non-Lethal? Erm... Not Exactly
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Monday, October 03, 2005

Non-Lethal? Erm... Not Exactly

Oh dear:
The manufacturer of a stun-gun used in the arrest of a July 21 London bomb attempt suspect is restricting the use of the phrase "non-lethal" in its marketing campaigns amid an investigation by American state authorities.

Taser International, which makes weapons that fire up to 50,000 volts and are used to incapacitate a person, also said it would no longer claim in its consumer literature that its guns "left no lasting effects".
This cosmetic shift seems to be concerned primarily with the commercial sale of the electro-shock-stun-guns (yes you can actually buy your very own taser - in the States at least), but the potential ramifications for their use by law enforcement officials should be obvious. While Taser's president Tom Smith goes out of his way to emphasise the voluntary nature of these (and other) concessions even claiming that his company suggested many of them, it's hard to avoid the obvious signs of furious back-pedalling by a company terrified of expensive litigation and the effects of tighter regulation of its product. (The introduction of background checks as a prerequisite to purchase in some states caused revenues to halve between the final three months of last year and the first quarter of 2005.)

Among the other changes is the substitution of "leave no lasting after-effects" with "are more effective and safer than other use-of-force options". It might just be me, but don't you think "might have lasting after-effects" would have been more honest? Particularly if they added an admission that they've never really bothered to find out either way.

None of the above is likely to slow the deployment of tasers in the UK. This fits a worrying pattern. Just as the US is becoming increasingly concerned about the use of tasers (the company have even faced legal action from police injured by the weapons during training) the police in the UK are dishing them out to their officers with not inconsiderable enthusiasm.

The article contains one further interesting tit-bit towards the end when it notes that "in 2001, Home Office researchers discovered people who had been in contact with CS gas were at "serious risk" of catching fire if a Taser gun was subsequently used. Many officers are told to use CS gas to resolve a situation before employing a more extreme method such as a Taser." But you needn't worry, it's not like this sort of thing could actually happen outside the lab is it?

Danny Boy has more, including the intriguing suggestion that the police be armed with toy guns and plastic swords.

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