Taser chairman defends stun gun's safety

Mon May 12, 2008 5:41pm EDT
 
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The chairman of Taser International Inc accused critics on Monday of spreading myths about the stun gun's dangers, saying there was no "magic bullet" to completely eliminate the risk of death during police use of force.

No studies have shown the devices can cause deaths, but that does not mean their use is entirely risk free, Taser co-founder Thomas Smith told a Canadian inquiry in Vancouver.

"There is no use-of-force option, ours included, that is a magic bullet," he said.

Smith said that Tasers, which are becoming increasingly popular with police forces, were still safer for both police and those being subdued than either firearms or batons. He emphasized his statements with videos of people being hit and pepper-sprayed by police officers.

Police use of the stun guns -- which incapacitate people with a 50,000-volt jolt of electricity -- has become controversial in Canada following the death a Polish immigrant during an arrest at Vancouver International Airport last year.

Images of Robert Dziekanski writhing on the floor after he was shot with the Taser were broadcast around the world, but the cause of this death has not been determined.

Smith called the incident tragic, but said he declined further comment until a medical examiner's investigation is completed.

Critics have accused Taser of pushing its product on the market without adequately testing for health risks such as heart failure, and for manipulating studies to downplay possible safety issues.   Continued...

 
<p>Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski is seen on the floor as airport police secure him in the arrivals area of the Vancouver airport in video footage takenn October 14, 2007. Police use of the stun guns -- which incapacitate people with a 50,000-volt jolt of electricity -- has become controversial in Canada following the death of Dziekanski during an arrest at Vancouver International Airport last year. REUTERS/Paul Pritchard/Handout</p>