Murphy's Law: Non-Lethal Headlines

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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 guy.

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.

 


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