As the Sheriff of Dougherty County I have the opportunity to speak to many civic groups and organizations throughout our community. During these times, I am often asked questions about the operation of the Sheriff’s Office or about law enforcement issues. Lately, however, I have been asked a surprising number of questions relating to TASERs and stun guns. Many people are curious, not only about the devices being used by law enforcement, but about those available to civilians.
I think it is important for anyone who is interested to have the best, most accurate information available. One thing I can tell you is that you will not get accurate information by watching television. The effectiveness of a TASER or stun gun is greatly dramatized on television. Do they work? Yes. Do they knock someone unconscious? No. They simply disrupt the normal electrical flow through some of the body’s nerves.
There is a difference between a TASER and a stun gun. TASERs and similar devices fire small projectiles called “probes” that are connected to the hand-held unit by small filament wires through which the energy is conducted. Stun guns are hand-held units that have stationary probes mounted on one end of the device and require the operator to place the unit in direct contact with the target in order to deliver the charge. Both units use high levels of voltage but very low amperage to achieve their effect without causing significant injury.
You can think of the body’s nerves as “internal wiring.” The energy from the TASER or stun gun passes through the tissues of the body between the probes of the device. While travelling that distance, the energy passes through nerves and then enters the body’s “wiring system,” causing the desired effect. The greater the distance between the probes, the greater the effect on the target. TASERs and similar devices which fire projectiles usually achieve greater separation of probes than stun guns. That is one reason why law enforcement prefers them. Another reason is that TASERs can be deployed from a distance, which is safer for the law enforcement officer.
Many civilians are attracted to the safety and effectiveness of TASERs as well, which generally allows the subject to be incapacitated from twice the effective distance of pepper spray. Interestingly, the TASER was originally developed for civilians, not law enforcement. The idea was to give people an option of incapacitating a subject while they escaped the situation. TASERs for civilians are generally a bit less expensive than a handgun and may be a more acceptable solution for personal safety than a deadly weapon. More information may be found at the company’s website.
While TASERs and stun guns are not deadly weapons, they are still weapons of self defense and should be treated with respect. Anyone considering purchasing and carrying any type of weapon should become familiar with the law regarding the legal possession of the weapon they choose, as well as any locations at which such weapons are prohibited.
If you have any questions about TASERs, stun guns, or other personal safety options, please feel free to contact my office at (229) 430-6508.