December 16, 2008:
Once more, the Taser
(a gun like device that fires two small barbs into an individual, and then zaps
the victim with a non-lethal jolt of electricity, which causes the victim to
collapse and fall) is under attack because it kills people. This time, the
hubbub is in Canada.
All this is a common problem with
"non-lethal weapons" (as things like Taser are called), which are not
one hundred percent non-lethal. But people love to call them non-lethal,
because such devices are intended to deal with violent individuals without
killing them. A classic example of how this works is the Taser, which has been
popular with police, who can more easily subdue violent, and often armed,
individuals. Before Taser, the cops had a choice between dangerous (for
everyone) hand-to-hand combat, or just firing their weapons and killing the
While the Taser has been a great
success, for every thousand or so times you use it, the victim will die (either
from a fall, another medical condition, use of drugs or whatever). This is
unacceptable to those who take the term "non-lethal weapon" literally.
Thus the periodic media madness. Naturally, the manufacturers of these devices
want zero deaths, and the users want a device that will bring down the target
every time, at a price (for the device) they can afford to pay. There's no way of
satisfying all these demands, but it makes great press, insisting that someone
should make it so.