Tasers can be the solution, but with caution

February 15, 2011 — by Kelly Liu

How far are we willing to go in order to feel safe? Sure, we can legalize all sorts of “self-defense” tools and weapons, but are they doing as much good as we want to believe? Is a deadly weapon like a Taser a powerful self-defense option or are there too many instances where its use has been misdirected or abused?

In light of the dangers that ordinary citizens must protect themselves from, many turn to self-
defense weapons such as guns, mace and pepper spray in order to have a sense of security. However, for those feeling unsafe in Saratoga and many other places who cannot see themselves carrying a gun, a rather different weapon may be another story: a Taser, one hand-held stun gun with a range of 15 feet.

A Taser is a device that delivers a jolt of electricity throughout a target’s body, inflicting temporary paralysis, minor to moderate pain and contractions of muscle tissue. Unlike all other tools that can be overcome by drugs, alcohol and determination, the Taser takes away the ability for a target to be mobile for up to 30 seconds. It is meant to stun, not harm.

Tasers have been widely used by the law enforcement. According to Steve Tuttle, the vice president of Communications of Taser International, as of last September, Taser International has sold approximately 514,000 TASER® brand electronic control devices (ECDs) worldwide to more than 15,800 law enforcement and military agencies.

“[Police use Tasers] to safely subdue dangerous or violent individuals or may cause harm to others, themselves or the public,” Tuttle said.

According to Tuttle, more than 225,000 civilians in America have purchased Tasers since 1994. Consumers can use a Taser C2 or Taser X26C, with the price varying from $379 to $999. Forty-three states allow Taser ECD devices, as long as the owner is at least 18.

The advantages to owning a Taser are four-fold: It buys enough time to escape from attackers and contact the police, does not injure the attacker, avoids prolonged and bloody confrontations and is perfectly legal in 43 states. Even if one misses the attacker from long distance, the Taser can have the same effect when placed against the target.

On the other hand, there has been much controversy regarding the use of these weapons, especially because of their frequent use by the police even when unnecessary.

According to CNN World, there was an incident in which an unarmed man in police custody was Tasered 14 times after refusing a strip search last October. This was called “unacceptable and extremely disappointing” by senior Australian police chief. Another incident was when an Iranian-American UCLA student, Mostafa Tabatabainejad, was stunned multiple times by the campus police for refusing to be escorted out of the Powell Library in November 2006. Tabatabainejad filed a lawsuit pressing charges on the officers he claims to have violated the American with Disabilities Act (his being racial profiling).

A Taser can be powerful enough to trigger heart attacks, paralysis and even death. Also, since it is legal to use a Taser (under self-defense conditions), if a Taser gun falls into the hands of the wrong people, it can be used for the wrong reasons. This may not be very common, but there are no real regulations regarding the ownership of a Taser. Taser International only has an age requirement, and state governments have a law to permit Tasers.

Some Saratoga students are looking into other forms of security, whether it be owning a Taser or purchasing pepper spray, especially when they graduate and explore the real world. Some people claim a Taser is a great alternative to conventional self-defense, as long as it is used with safety, responsibility and most importantly, common sense. However, the many misuses of Tasers are a reminder that it is still a deadly and dangerous weapon.

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