Truth about tasers

By Abigail Keefe
September 18, 2008

Over the past few years, critics of the taser have been calling into question whether or not the stun-gun should be recognized as a non-lethal weapon. In comparison police feel it is a safer tool to use on a human being than a loaded firearm.

A taser is a pistol shaped stun-gun which when loaded, can propel two electrode barbs into a persons skin. The taser then sends electricity to the barbs which causes “neuromuscular incapacitation” to its victim, who then cannot use their muscles and cannot move causing them to fall to the ground. This kind of weapon is very useful when someone is running away from the police or if an area is crowded and using a gun is to too dangerous.

Against the pistol, the stun-gun seems like a much safer weapon. The weapons producer, Taser International, has released many studies saying that the weapons do not kill people. In a recent court case, Taser International actually brought two books of these studies and each were a foot thick.

However, all of the studies were paid for by the company itself which can makes it seem as though the studies were flawed.

In Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) use the taser effectively as a, non-lethal tool. They believe it is so safe in fact that when being trained to use the taser, they use it on themselves once as part of the orientation.

However, several incidents in Canada have surfaced over the last few years, dealing with officers suffering injuries during their taser training.

Critics will say that as the popularity of the taser goes up, it seems that the situation gets worse. Amnesty International has stated that 17 people have died since 2001 in stun-gun related incidences. However, it is estimated in America that out of every 100,000 people, 14 of them will die in a gun related accident.

If police would simply use tasers correctly, most of the incidents would not have been so problematic.

Looking through newspaper articles, I found that almost every incident which resulted with a subject seriously hurt by a taser, police officers had used the weapon to shock the person several times instead of just once, like during police taser training.

One infamous incident occurred in October 2007 when Canadian RCMP’s tasered a confused Polish man named Robert Dziekanski several times while holding him to the ground. Within seconds after the shot, Dziekanski died of a heart attack. Shockingly, doctors have said that the taser had nothing to do with the heart attack or the death of Robert Dziekanski.

Perhaps the critics are right that the taser should not be listed as a non-lethal weapon however, I believe this is only true because it seems that to call it non-lethal makes it seem less like a serious weapon. If it only stuns people and will not kill them, then why not use it more often than not? That seems to be the frame of mind of the RCMP.

In the Dziekanski incident witnesses supposedly were making progress in calming the man down. Dziekanski did not speak English and no one else spoke Polish. When the police came Dziekanski was submissive yet excited, a witness said the RCMP’s told Dziekanski to turn around and walk to the wall and when he did, that is when he was tasered and held to the ground to be shocked several times more.

It always comes down to who is using a weapon and to do what. If a taser is supposed to stun a person and not kill them, then we simply need a better model of the taser from its maker, one that does the job but is not so harmful to its victims. The only problem is that so far, many of the maker’s studies show that tasers do not kill. I believe that it is obvious that tasers do not always kill, but it is also obvious that they sometimes do and that would mean that they are indeed lethal.

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Abigail Keefe

Abigail Keefe is a Cabrini College student studying communications, enjoying her time in Radnor, Pennsylvania. Abbie loves working for the school newspaper, the Loquitur, and is also passionate about everything that the communication field has to offer.

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