THE MAGAZINE

Stun guns

Nonlethal weapons have been under the microscope since a woman was shot in the eye and killed by a pepper-spray-filled ball after the Boston Red Sox clinched the American League pennant last year. And the once-high-flying stock of Taser International plummeted back to earth at the beginning of this year when it announced that it had received an informal inquiry from the Securities and Exchange Commission about the safety of its products, which helped trigger a spate of lawsuits. The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, an independent research body, has now released a paper concluding that “when stun technology is appropriately applied, it is relatively safe and clearly effective.” Examining the 72 cases identified by Amnesty International in which stun weapons have been associated with deaths, the authors found that “the probability of death after stun device administration to the body is from one in a thousand to one in one hundred thousand.” The report also notes that there is no federal regulatory oversight of nonlethal stun weapons, with the result that there are no widely accepted engineering standards for these weapons. The Potomac Institute, whose paper can be found via SM Online, calls for “industry-driven, government-endorsed standards.”

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