Thursday, November 8, 2007

Arming your police with more weapons you can't have.

taser shotgun round
The company that makes Tasers is field testing and plans to sell in 2008 a wireless electroshock round that can be fired from any 12-gauge shotgun. It delivers the same electrical effect as the handheld Taser at distances up to 100 feet, and adds blunt impact to that knockdown electrical power.

The round leaves the barrel live and already discharging, and continues to discharge for 20 seconds. Four barbed electrodes embed themselves in the flesh at impact. The projectile then breaks apart to release six additional electrodes to further distribute electroshock. Its outer shell carries more electrodes to enhance shock when the victim reflexively grasps it and completes a circuit through the hand and arm. The round carries a miniature microprocessor to identify the best- working electrodes and reroute electroshock for best effect. Unlike the tasers we are all becoming familiar with, it carries all its charge onboard the round and needs no wires connecting it to the gun.

I can find no estimate of the cost of these rounds, nor any discussion of them being made available for private purchase. Weapons technology has always run ahead of the law. Police departments have a habit of lusting after arms that the citizen can't afford and the law has the distressing habit of making police weapons unavailable to the average citizen. We can hope that this round opens the gap wide enough to require the attention of watchdog agencies and the courts.

This abomination will be released for use against American citizens with absolutely no independent testing or government oversight, no doubt with the same claims of non-lethality made for handheld tasers. Protestors, students, women, children, and other members of the public will provide their services as guinea pigs free of charge. TASER international has done detailed technical and social engineering to make this round everything a police state enforcer could want.

Traceability is gone. Police versions of the hand-held taser have a datalogger in the handset to record the date and time of each firing and the number of times the trigger is pulled to deliver a shock. Privately available versions discharge miniature confetti, each piece imprinted with a unique number linked to the gun. The XREP projectile is completely unrelated to the weapon; it can be used in any 12-gauge shotgun, and carries no datalogger or tattletale confetti. The shooter has no fear of being held to account for the shot.

The stigma of electroshock weapons has been sidestepped. Police will carry only substitute rounds for their existing firearms, not strange-looking plastic weapons stowed in a second holster on their hip.

The marketing point of reduced lethality has been preserved. These rounds will be presented as a humane alternative to buckshot.

The element of enforcer personal risk has been removed. Once these are available, police will no longer approach their intended victim closely enough to put themselves at risk. They can taser trick-or-treaters from across the street. They can taser homeowners filming police activities on their own property from across the yard and never put down their doughnut.

The one-shot limitation has been overcome. One aggressor cop can paralyze mobs of protestors as fast as he can pump his shotgun. The shells probably also work in a 12-round capacity Striker or Protecta street- sweeper style weapon.

There's absolutely no reason to believe this round won't be abused as freely as hand-held tasers are now.