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Tasers: A Deadly Weapon

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Technology today is at its high-speed pace. Consequences of this technology overgrowth can benefit and can threaten at the same time. Ultra-high speed computers, ease in space exploration, microbiological discoveries, innovations in quantum physics, nanotechnology, and more. These are examples of the ever growing technological advances in the world. One of the technological advances in the field of security is the stun guns, most popularly known as Tasers.

Tasers are hand-held weapons that produce electricity when fired. Taser stands for "Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle", which is named after a series of Children’s Sci-Fi novels written by Tom Swift. Taser International Inc. is the only company that manufactures these kinds of weapons. The electricity will travel through a pair of wires that are propelled by a compressed gas. Firing range is up to 10.6 metres. It is designed to incapacitate a target up to 5 centimeters thick of clothing. Some news reports claimed that a Taser can deliver a jolt with 50000 volts. Although the company claims that an advanced Taser can deliver a shock with an average of 1500 volts. However, studies show that a 120 volts shock from an electric socket can be lethal if the electricity passed through the body. According to the Taser International Inc. (2007), the Taser technology is based on the fact that the human nervous system is driven by simple electric impulses. Furthermore, the brain and the spinal cord process these electric signals, then makes decisions. The peripheral nervous system is responsible for the sensory and motor nerves. These nerves are the ones responsible for carrying information to the brain and carrying information from the brain to the muscles. According to the Taser International Inc. (2007), the condition that is inflicted on a target that has been hit with a Taser is called Neuromuscular Incapacitation (NMI). This is an involuntary stimulation of the sensory and motor nerves. Furthermore, this condition is not dependent on the pain. Also, it is highly effective on targets that have high level of tolerance on pain. These new technology stun-guns are different from the previous generations’ stun-guns because the latter only affects sensory nerves. Some targets who have a high level of pain tolerance can endure the pain.

Common effects of Tasers are incapacitation, strong muscle contractions which can induce bruises, cuts, impact injuries, and strain-related injuries such as muscle or tendon tears. Targets may fall to the ground, experience involuntary strong muscle contractions, experience critical stress amnesia, and many more.

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According to Taser International Inc. (2007), the Taser has no drawbacks at present and that these devices are among the safest options available. Contrary to the said statement, Amnesty International said that in August 2001 to August 2008, 334 Americans died after being shocked using a Taser. Furthermore, their study said that the targets were unarmed; but were repeatedly stunned using those. In addition, UN Committee against Torture (November 2007) released a statement that says “use of Taser X26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted a form of torture, and … in certain cases, it could also cause death.”.  Thus, considering such facts, Tasers are considered to be deadly if not handled properly.

In June 2008, the Taser company lost its first law suit against a 40-year old man named Robert Heston that was claimed to be shot by a Taser three times. The company lost $6 million for this case. Another case was in October 2007, a 40-year old man died at the Vancouver International Airport after being shot five times by the Taser. It was said that the man was having a Delirium. These evidences are proof that Tasers are lethal weapons if used excessively.

I will give two clear, up-to-date, vivid cases wherein the use of Tasers was justified: (These cases came from credible news companies.)

  1. Death of a 16-year old boy from Detroit, Michigan

On May 28, 2009, CNN Special Units Investigation reported the death of a 16-year old boy named Robert Mitchell from Detroit, Michigan. According to the CNN SUI report, Mitchell died April 10 at an abandoned house in Warren. The police said that they confronted Mitchell’s cousin who was with him. The confrontation was because of having an expired license plate. Police said that Mitchell was so terrified and shocked that he tried to run away and resist the police. The police warned Mitchell but he did not heed to their warnings. Thus, the Police justified that they had to use non-lethal force, and that was the use of Tasers. Mitchell died after being shot only once by the Taser. Police claimed that Tasers are very useful, non-lethal tools. The police was able to justify the case inspite of many protests that were hurled at them.

For this case, my opinion is that the police can justify why they shot Mitchell because they only shot him once. Furthermore, I believe that the company is to be sued because they should be the one disseminating the information about their product. Moreover, the police thought that Mitchell was guilty of something that he has done because he ran away from them. The police’s instinct was to disable the target, and not to kill him. 

  1. Death of a 24-year old man in Ohio

According to the report, the police tried to break up a fight outside a bar near Miami University. The 24-year old man named Kevin Piskura was subdued by an officer using a Taser. The police said that Piskura argued with them after they escorted Piskura’s friend out of the bar. The officer warned him to stop and follow him, but he refused. The officer shot him on the chest. A captured camera video showed how Piskura was getting shocked for 10 seconds as he rolls at the sidewalk. Piskura died shortly after being brought to a University hospital in Cincinnati.

For this case, I follow what I have stated in part (a). I think that the officer has no ill intentions on why he used the Taser. The officer did his part in subduing a person that does not follow the law. I believe that the use of Taser was justified. Furthermore, I believe that the use of Tasers is not the issue.

Tasers, in general, is the main issue here. Tasers are lethal weapons and therefore should not be used in humans.

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