Police to look at `bean bag' gun

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND YARD is to examine the use of guns firing "jelly bags" and "bean bags" as a non-lethal way of disarming offenders.

The weapons, which are used in the United States to knock down potentially violent people without causing serious harm, are being considered by the Metropolitan Police because of a rise in the number of knife attacks on officers.

A committee has been formed to examine alternative weapons and tactics. The initiative was prompted by the death last year of PC Nina Mackay, who was stabbed trying to arrest a mentally disturbed man in breach of bail.

Among two ideas to be examined are guns that fire either a soft polyurethane "jelly" round or a special heavy cloth bean bag filled with metal shot. The projectiles, which are considered safer versions of rubber bullets, have a range of up to 80 metres and the capability to knock down a person down.

Jelly rounds can be fired from a special six-shot semi- automatic rifle, while the bean bag rounds can be fired from an ordinary shotgun.

The use of non-lethal weapons has grown in the United States after a public outcry against the number of people being shot and the rise in civillitigation against the police.

Inspector Gary Crump of the firearms policy unit at Scotland Yard said: "Our review comes partly because of a rise in the number of armed response vehicles being sent to incidents involving knives. At the moment, there are two extremes; officers with batons and CS spray at one end and armed officers at the other - there is a gap between them."

Any new non-lethal weapons will first need to be approved by the Home Office and will require vigorous testing.