Thursday, February 02, 2006

Dead Wrong

You're a cop. You encounter a hostile with a gun who starts shooting at you. What do you do?

Here are your choices:

  • Stand there until you get shot

  • Flee (and possibly get shot)

  • Shoot Back

I think it's reasonable to assume that the third option is the best by any sane measure. And it's reasonable to assume that if you shoot at a cop, you run a high risk of death by bullet. But some people feel that it is uncivilized or inhumane to kill people in this manner. And to their point, it is true that there are many instances of accidental shootings where the cop makes a mistake.

But wait - what if there was a way for the cop to shoot back, both saving their own life as well as those of innocent bystanders, and have a high probability of not killing the shooter? Enter Tasers.

Tasers are a wonderful invention. They disable the shooter as well or better than a bullet. They stop the danger. And they allow mistakes to be made without a lethal outcome - most of the time.

But it is this small percentage of times that they cause a death (the percentage is in debate, but the range of estimates anyone has ever put forth is 17-70 deaths since the introduction of the Taser in 1999 out of at least 40,000 uses. This puts a high limit at approximately 0.1%, or 1 in a 1000. And it is likely much less, since I used the highest death total I could find, divided by only the actual reported uses on file in the Taser database.

I can't find a similar stat on deaths by gunfire, but I'd be willing to bet a case of my favorite beer it's a tad higher. And the major injury rate would be staggeringly higher.

But here's a simpler way to look at it. If a cop were to shoot at you, for whatever reason, would you prefer he used a Taser, or his 9mm special?

I thought so.

So what kind of muddled thinking is it where some people want the use of Tasers outlawed?

Here's another great example in the So Stupid It's Amazing They Remember To Breathe category.

The US Army is sponsoring development of a laser weapon that is designed to dazzle (temporarily blind) anyone who is attempting to shoot at their helicopters from the ground. The device, being developed by ScorpWorks, is in the trial stage and has been shown to be effective. BUT...

The International Committee of the Red Cross is concerned. Aparently the 1995 Protocol IV addition to the Geneva Convention bans blinding laser devices. Guns, bombs, grenades...these are all ok. A laser that has any potential to cause permanent blindness is not.

Now again, I don't know about you, but if I'm attending a wedding in some village sometime, and a US Army helicopter believes it is under fire because one of the inlaws was crazy enough to fire his AK-47 in the air in celebration, I'd prefer to be bathed in the soft glow of coherent light as opposed to blown to bits in an 4,000 rpm minigun maelstrom.

But that's just me. I'm weird that way.


At Monday, February 06, 2006, Blogger Jamie Sidey said...

right or wrong, I think a lot of people are concerned that the police will use tasers a lot more than they would use guns... i.e. they will just use them to subdue a drunk, or to stop a thief running away. Neither situation would warrant the use of potentially deadly force, but if the officer thinks that a taser is a harmless stun gun, they are likely to use it more than they'd use a gun.
I don't have data on this, but I could see this being a valid argument

At Monday, February 06, 2006, Blogger A Muser said...

That's possible. However, if the situation warrants subduing a suspect, the police will use force. Without the Taser, they won't simply say "darn it - I guess I'll just have to back off." The options available to them are a gun, baton, or hand-to-hand techniques like the choke hold.

I would assert that the Taser is consistently safer than the alternatives.


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