Electrical Guns

The 1970s saw the introduction of the first electrical gun — the Taser. The Taser is a device that uses electrical current to immobilize victims without killing them.26 Superficially resembling a flashlight, it has a gray plastic body in which there is a flashlight bulb and lens. Each cassette contains two barbs connected to the case by approximately 18 ft of wire. The weapon is aimed and fired by pointing the flashlight and pressing the trigger. This procedure allows a spark to ignite the cassette, propelling the barbs out of the weapon at about a 15-degree angle of divergence. If the barbs lodge in either the skin or the clothing, continued pressure on the trigger delivers current and voltage down the wire. A current of 60 Mamps is driven at 50,000 V. This current causes depolarization of the muscle cells, leading to widespread contraction and immobilization. Current can be delivered continuously for approximately 20 min. While the weapon is supposed to be nonlethal, death can result by continuous deliverance of the current with respiratory paralysis, from an arrhythmia in an individual with heart disease, or from direct production of a ventricular arrhythmia due to the current inadvertently affecting the polarization — depolarization cycle of the heart at a critical point. This last possibility is fairly unlikely.

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