Amnesty International has released a report which links 334 deaths to the use of Taser guns between 2001 and August 2008. Contrary to claims by the manufacturer that the stun guns deliver non-lethal shocks, the Amnesty International indicates that the government should limit use of the weapons to life-threatening situations or stop using them altogether because of their potentially lethal effects and ease of abuse.
Taser International claims that their stun guns are safe and non-lethal. However, Amnesty International challenges these claims, releasing a detailed report about the safety of Taser guns, titled “USA: Less than lethal?”
The Taser gun is designed to incapacitate neuromuscular function by delivering a shock that uses Electro-Muscular Disruption technology. Many law enforcement agencies have deployed the weapons to allow police to incapacitate someone who poses a threat, but there have also been a number of reports of overuse and abuse of the weapons, which could have fatal consequences.
“Tasers are not the ‘non-lethal’ weapons that they are portrayed to be,” said Angela Wright, author of an Amnesty International report that was released on December 16, 2008.
The report found that 90% of the Taser gun deaths examined involved people who were unarmed and did not appear to present a serious threat. In addition, many of the deaths were associated with repeated use of the weapons or prolonged shocks that were longer than the standard five seconds.
Out of the 334 deaths identified nationwide which involved the use of Taser guns, Amnesty International indicates that at least 50 have been directly attributed to the Taser shocks by medical examiners and coroners.
According to Bloomberg News, Taser International is currently a party in at least 40 Taser gun wrongful death lawsuits or personal injury cases, and they have previously been dismissed from over 70 other cases.
The first Taser lawsuit that resulted in a verdict against the manufacturer of the weapon was returned in June 2008 by a California jury, who awarded $6.2 million to the family of a man who died after receiving multiple shocks from a Taser gun.