Wednesday, August 26, 2009
THE manufacturer of the Taser stun gun is sparking new controversy with the commercial launch of a long-range version that can be fired from a 12-bore shotgun.
Government-funded tests on initial versions of the new Extended Range Electronic Projectile (XREP) have revealed possible health risks to people on the receiving end, New Scientist has learned. The manufacturer, Taser International of Scottsdale, Arizona, says the issue has been addressed in redesigned devices, but these have yet to be independently tested.
Unlike the current Taser X26, which fires darts attached to short wires, the XREP is wire-free. Its projectile, the size of a shotgun cartridge, is designed to pierce the target’s skin and contains battery-powered circuits that deliver a debilitating shock. It has a range of 20 metres or more, compared with 5 metres for previous Tasers.
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A team led by Cynthia Bir, a trauma injury specialist at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, found that some of the 275 XREP cartridges that Taser supplied for testing last year were capable of delivering an electric shock for more than 5 minutes, rather than the 20 seconds of shocking current they are supposed to generate. Previous Taser stun guns shock for only 5 seconds per discharge, though that can be repeated.
Bir’s team reported their findings at a conference on non-lethal weapons in Ettlingen, Germany, in May. Steve Wright of Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK, who has studied electric shock weapons, says Bir’s report that the device can carry on shocking for 5 minutes is worrying. The effects of prolonged shocking are not known, he says, but the finding raises concerns about the potential damage to a victim’s mental health.
Full story here.