Mission Statement - De-Spinning the Pro-Taser Propaganda

Yeah right, 'Excited Delirium' my ass...


The primary purpose of this blog is to provide an outlet for my observations and analysis about tasers, taser "associated" deaths, and the behaviour exhibited by the management, employees and minions of Taser International. In general, everything is linked back to external sources, often via previous posts on the same topic, so that readers can fact-check to their heart's content. This blog was started in late-2007 when Canadians were enraged by the taser death of Robert Dziekanski and four others in a short three month period. The cocky attitude exhibited by the Taser International spokespuppet, and his preposterous proposal that Mr. Dziekanski coincidentally died of "excited delirium" at the time of his taser-death, led me to choose the blog name I did and provides my motivation. I have zero financial ties to this issue.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Safe and Effective"

Proponents often describe tasers as "safe and effective".

Here's an example of "effective"...

Brunswick County: 'Taser failed to stop man before he was shot...' - "After giving a warning, Hardee shot Walters with a Taser, but Walters removed the Taser’s electronic probes and continued advancing toward the deputy, according to the statement." [LINK]

So "effective" sometimes means completely ineffective. This is not the only example.

I wonder what they mean by "safe"?


Critical Mass said...

Your blog has argued that stun guns, under Canadian law, should be treated as "firearms". In the US, devices which launch projectiles using gun powder, are controlled and regulated by The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

Here is a news article which asks the question "Is a Taser a firearm?"


The article reminded me of several questions I have about tasers, how they work and how they are manufactured.

Taser International has been able to avoid ATF scrutiny and regulation, by claiming its cartridge uses compressed nitrogen to propel the barbs which carry the wires and complete the electrical circuit.

There are two methods which can release the nitrogen charge in any device using a compressed gas cartridge. One is mechanical (a large spring is released, driving the cartridge into a puncture point and releasing the gas) and the more efficient/compact method is a small pyrotechnic charge which ruptures the cartridge seal.

I have looked at schematics of the taser stun gun, and there is no mechanical spring which drives the cartridge against a puncture point.

Instead, the taser cartridge uses the latter method of gas release, which means it contains a pyrotechnic charge, or gun powder, making it technically a device subject to ATF rules.

The company has been quite secretive about its cartridges. Several years ago, they were made in a plant just across the US border, in Mexico. They recently completed a new cartridge "assembly" line, but the origin of the compressed gas cartridges is not certain. It is possible that the pyrotechnic charge which releases the gas, makes the entire device a "firearm", by ATF definition. If so, the company has violated US law.

And I have always wondered about those "training cartridges" the company sells. Is it possible that the electrical circuit in the "training cartridge" has been altered to deliver a different shock than the standard cartridge? It would explain why they rarely induce serious injuries or death. I have never seen any study where the electrical properties of the "training cartridge" are compared to the cartridge used in the field.

Critical Mass said...

PS: Here is a diagram of the nitrogen cartridge and the small pyrotechnic charge at the bottom:


I believe it contains gun powder, but I have not, personally, ever taken a cartridge apart.

Excited-Delirium.com said...

Thanks for the interesting comment.

I had assumed (not sure if I saw something somewhere or if I am just purely assuming) that the weapon simply punctured the pressure canister cap with a pointed tip and that this interface was designed to open the vent quickly.

The Canadian rules about tasers-R-firearms are perfectly clear, although at least one pro-taser propagandist made a half-hearted attempt to muddle it. But there's really no argument about what that expert review uncovered about the long-ignored rules. I cover this entire issue at the time - search the blog for keyword "firearm".

With respect to the training cartridges being somehow lower power, I don't know how they would accomplish that. The current is supposed to be set by the device and they intended it to be relatively constant even given varying "loads" (victims/subjects/human beings).

They're playing both sides of this position, because they nitpick the load resistance when CBC/RC sponsored testing found that the current was too high.

The simpler explanation is that they have, or had, poor QA and there is simply more varability in the safety and effectiveness of their products than any normal company would consider acceptable.

Or perhaps the engineering company hired by CBC/RC are incapable of making a simple current waveform capture - do ya think? (Ah, no.)

It all fits the larger pattern...

If you get more info, pass it on.