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Taser disputes stun gun danger
Study says device caused volunteers no heart damage

Bloomberg News | May 15, 2005
By Subrata N. Chakravarty

Electric stun guns did not cause damage to the hearts of volunteers shocked by the devices, according to a study released Friday by Taser International Inc., the world's largest maker of the guns.

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    The independent study of 24 healthy subjects found no significant changes immediately following the electrical exposure, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company said. Physicians Saul Levine, Christian Sloane, Theodore Chan, Gary Vilke and James Dunford conducted the study.

    Critics have expressed concerns about the safety of the guns as their use by police and military forces increased. Human rights group Amnesty International released a report April 1 documenting

In a demonstration, sheriff's deputy Krist Boldt, right, falls after being shocked by an M26 Taser gun fired by Sgt. Pat Price. (Associated Press file photos )

103 deaths ''related'' to Taser's guns, which incapacitate people by delivering 50,000 volts of electricity.

    An Orem man died in December after he was shot with a stun gun while in police custody in Heber City. Police said an autopsy ruled out the gun as a cause of death, but the victim's family expressed doubts about the conclusion.

    With Friday's study, said Sid Parakh, an analyst at Portland, Ore.-based Robins Group, ''there is more clarity on Taser safety. Ideally, it should result in more orders, but this is not an ideal market. They will have to increase incremental awareness of the safety of these weapons.''

    Chan is the medical director of the Emergency   Departments at the University of California, San Diego-Hillcrest Medical Center in San Diego and Thornton Hospital in La Jolla, Calif. He is an associate professor of clinical medicine at the university, a Taser International statement said.

    ''We observed only heart activity in our volunteers,'' Chan said. ''We didn't see anything that suggests the Taser is inherently dangerous, although other studies need to be done.''

    Chan said that his group had done research on less-lethal force methods for 10 years, including a study on the use of pepper spray for the U.S. Department of Justice. The Taser study came about because the City of San Diego was planning to deploy

  the weapon, he said. As part of the training, some officers had agreed to be hit with Tasers. The officers and some of Chan's group, including himself, made up the test group.

    ''I don't think I've experienced anything quite so painful, and it's very incapacitating,'' Chan said of the experience. ''If I were out-of-control or violent, it would stop me.''

    Acting Sgt. Ron Lemaster of the city's training unit confirmed that a number of officers, including himself, volunteered to be shot and that Tasers have since been issued to some officers.

    ''We had no idea the study was even being done,'' Taser co-founder and President Tom Smith   said. ''The study establishes a baseline on studies on healthy humans. It's a beginning, not an end.''

    Prospective new customers held back on placing orders, the company said on April 19, amid inquiries by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission into Taser's safety claims and sales to a distributor.

   First-quarter earnings tumbled 95 percent as legal costs climbed and sales to police and the military dropped because of safety concerns.
    Tasers are used by more than 7,000 police departments and prisons worldwide, as well as by the U.S. military. The weapons fire two barbs as far as 35 feet and cost $400 to $1,000 each.

    The company offers a version of its weapon   for sale to individual consumers. Rules controlling sales of the X26C vary from state to state.

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