Leading stun gun manufacturer Taser International Inc. unveiled on Monday a device that is capable of deploying three shocks without having to be recharged — a move that comes just days after a British Columbia inquiry urged stricter limits on the use of the weapons.
Typically, law enforcement officers using stun guns — also known as conducted energy weapons — have to reload after each deployment. Officers using the weapons no longer have to wait to deploy the weapons again, and now can deliver multiple shocks in quick succession.
This capacity could help officers who have missed a target or have more than one suspect to subdue.
Whether or not law enforcement officers should be given the ability to shock people multiple times has been a contentious issue in Canada. One of the recommendations of a report on stun gun use released Thursday by former B.C. Appeal Court justice Thomas Braidwood suggests such use is unwarranted and potentially deadly.
Braidwood recommended in his report that stun guns be used only in single five-second bursts in most cases, rather than multiple bursts. He cited increased medical risks associated with repeated shocks, and recommended that paramedic assistance be requested in every medically high-risk situation.
Though the report recommended a number of stricter limits on the use of the weapons, it stopped short of calling for an outright ban. The British Columbia government promptly adopted all of the recommendations outlined in the report.
The use of the weapons has sparked widespread controversy in Canada, particularly in the aftermath of the death of Polish man Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007. His death, which came after he was stunned with Tasers multiple times by RCMP officers, prompted the Braidwood inquiry and the release of last week's report.
Braidwood will also specifically probe Dziekanski's death in a second report, which isn't expected for months.
Details coming next month
Arizona-based Taser was quick to dismiss Thursday's report. The company said after its release that it appears that "politics has trumped science."
The recommendations in the report are based largely on speculation and ignored key facts, Taser said.
Taser unveiled its new device on Monday to hundreds of law enforcement officers and distributors at its annual conference. It costs $1,799 US, compared with $799 US for the older model, though Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said there will be "very generous" trade-in programs for law enforcement agencies.
Like the older models, the new stun gun shoots two barbed wires that deliver electrical current for several seconds, temporarily immobilizing people from a distance.
Details on when the new device will be made available will likely come next month, said Tuttle.