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Northern Ireland: Amnesty International concerned by launch of 'handbag sized' taser stun gun for US public

Amnesty International has expressed concern at the recent decision by Taser International to launch a new electro-shock weapon for the US general public and has renewed its calls for an independent and comprehensive study into its use.

The unveiling of this new weapon for civilians, in a variety of colours, comes just days after two men have reportedly died after being shot by Taser stun devices in separate incidents in the USA.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director said:

“The move to sell Taser electro-shock weapons to the general public is extremely reckless and highly irresponsible on the part of the manufacturers, particularly when there is still no consensus on the safety of these weapons.

“While there is a degree of accountability by police officers in how they use these weapons, there would be no such controls for the general public. It’s a senseless move, and we would urge Taser International to review its decision.”

To date, Amnesty International has recorded the deaths of more than 220 people after being shot by Tasers in the US and Canada since 2001 and in October last year in the UK, a man in County Durham died after being shot by a Taser electro-shock weapon and a baton round.

According to news reports, a 45-year-old man died in Florida on Saturday 6 January as police tried to subdue him in the back of a patrol car, and in New York an emotionally disturbed man died in a family member’s home after police used a Taser stun gun to subdue him. He went into cardiac arrest and died shortly afterwards.

Patrick Corrigan said:

“Making Tasers generally available is a very dangerous move. Each dart transmitted by this electro-shock weapon can send up to 50,000 volts of electricity through a person’s body, causing a person to collapse immediately, lose control of their bodily functions and suffer intense pain.

“This device can so easily become an instrument of torture if placed in the wrong hands. A simple online background check as suggested by the manufacturers is not enough of a safety precaution for such a dangerous weapon. Until we have a clear understanding of the actual damage which Tasers can do we must see an immediate ban on the use of these weapons in the USA.”

Background information

Hugh Orde, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), has proposed that tasers should be deployed by the PSNI.

In the UK more than three-quarters of police forces have deployed tasers to firearms officers and some parts of the police have already called for wider deployment to all officers. Amnesty International UK warned against any move towards the routine arming of police officers with Taser weapons.

Amnesty International UK continues to call for an independent, impartial and comprehensive study into the safety of the Taser electro-shock weapon and pending that inquiry, the organisation calls for Tasers electro-shock weapons to be used by trained firearm officers only as an alternative to lethal force and kept in a locked box at all times.

Find out more about the proposed use of tasers by the PSNI

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