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Allison Kilkenny Headshot

You're Not Properly Licensed to Use the Malfunctioning, Eye-Scalding Gun

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Raoul Moat, a 37-year-old man, was recently the target of a massive police manhunt in England after he shot three people with a sawn-off shotgun. After spending six days on the run, Moat was finally cornered by police. Hours of negotiations proceeded at the end of which Moat shot himself and later died at a hospital.

The salivating media followed every second of the tense pursuit with classy O.J.-style gusto. Journalist Johann Hari was particularly critical of the overzealous coverage, and especially how the media glorified Moat, describing him as having a "hulking physique," which of course is typical of a "notorious hard man." I dunno, ladies. Should we fear him or date him?

Details have now emerged that the police weren't properly licensed for the long-range X12 tasers they carried during the manhunt. At first, it seemed a minor detail in an extremely dramatic story, but now that some time has passed, reality is setting in. Police were carrying long-range tasers that haven't even been tested by scientists yet.

Well, what's the harm? An electrocuting gun is meant to electrocute. If it does that, great. If there's a little glitch, what's the worst that can happen?

Taser shotgun firm shoots itself in foot

Paul Marks, chief technology correspondent

Controversy continues to dog a non-lethal weapon called the Taser shotgun.

The "X12" Taser shotgun is made by Taser International of Scottsdale, Arizona and fires a battery-packed 12-bore shell with forward-facing barbs that deliver a debilitating electric shock.

In August last year, New Scientist revealed research that showed an early version of the weapon was both difficult to aim accurately, putting victims' eyes at risk, and sometimes delivered a shock for more than five minutes, rather than 20 seconds.

Such issues were part of the reason that the Taser shotgun went into a programme of testingin the labs of the UK Home Office's Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB).

Of course, none of this concerns people when the weapon is used against someone violent like Moat. The man was clearly mentally ill (he'd attempted to seek psychiatric help before the shootings,) but he was prone to eruptions of anger, and served time in jail for assaulting a nine-year-old relative. Hardly a man who inspires sympathy.

But it's interesting that police are using tasers that haven't even been cleared properly by scientists. It should concern people who aren't gun-wielding psychopaths, and may one day be at the receiving end of 50,000 volts of state sanctioned torture for something little like getting mouthy with a police officer over a speeding ticket, telling a bad joke, or daring to exercise their First Amendment rights.

Home Secretary Theresa May announced she has revoked Pro-Tect's licence to supply tasers to police forces for breaching the rules including the transportation of ammunition. That's a good thing, and a good demonstration of how the state is supposed to work. A private company breached proper dispensing protocol, so the state regulates their contracts. No proper testing, no business.

I'm curious as to how this would be handled in the states where deregulation and allowing companies to do whatever the hell they want is all the craze right now. Have all the tasers currently being carried by U.S. officers been properly tested?

Tasers, when they function perfectly, are brutal weapons of torture. It seems like every week there's a new horrifying story in the news about yet another innocent victim who has been killed or injured by tasers. So imagine if these weapons malfunction to the point where they blind victims and inflict excruciating pain for more than five minutes.

A recent study at the University of California found that deaths in-custody actually rise sharply -- nearly six times -- during the first year a department uses tasers. These things aren't the soft, friendly version of policing. They're torture devices that kill people, and are particularly dangerous for the mentally ill, and individuals with heart problems. And they're being marketed by companies that aren't even properly testing them.

Way back in the day, when U.S. companies designed deadly products called cigarettes, they were asked to appear before Congress to explain why they should be allowed to kill Americans for profit. It may be time to bring back that tradition. People aren't dying because of "excited delirium" as Taser International ridiculously claims. They're dying because their shitty guns cause people's hearts to explode.

Cross-posted from allisonkilkenny.com

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