UK sales pitch for electric 'torture' stun gun

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The Independent Online
The makers of a stun gun used by secret police in several Third World countries and condemned by Amnesty International flew into Britain last week to begin a campaign to put it on sale here.

The Air Taser is being plugged by its American inventors as an effective deterrent against muggers. It works by instantly overcoming the nervous system of its target, causing loss of control.

Police forces in some American states are armed with the Air Taser. Los Angeles police fired Taser darts into Rodney King before savagely beating him in an episode which led to some of the worst rioting in the city's history. The Los Angeles County Court subsequently recommended that the Sheriff's Department replace its Taser guns with an alternative weapon using plastic bullets. This was rejected by the County Sheriff.

The Taser is said to be superior to other stun guns in the damage it can cause. Unlike other models, which release an electrical charge when pressed against the body of the target, it can be fired from a distance of 15 feet.

A compressed air cylinder fires two darts attached to the gun by wires 15 feet long. A current, T-waves, sent down the lines, then affects the central nervous system. According to the users' manual: "The T-Waves overpower the normal electrical signals within the body's nerve fibres. The human target instantly loses control of his body and cannot perform co-ordinated body action, falling to the ground."

The company producing it, based at Scottsdale, Arizona, claim it has an 86 per cent instant incapacity rate, against 72 per cent for ordinary stun guns.

But in a report, Arming The Torturers, Amnesty International cites numerous cases of electric shock used for torture by secret police forces against political prisoners. The report mentions medical problems suffered by victims of Taser guns.

At present it is illegal to sell, buy, or promote the Taser under the Firearms Act. Those found guilty can face up to 10 years in jail. However Air Taser Incorporated claims the gun, which costs around pounds 150 in the US, is "more humane" than traditional methods of control such as clubs. One of its brochures recommends baby seals should be Tasered, rather than clubbed to death.

British customs officials have discovered Air Tasers being smuggled into Britain via mail order. They have intercepted about 20 of the guns, but admit that many more are getting through.