Debunking some of the most common myths about TASER energy weapons
Will a TASER energy weapon electrocute me? What actually IS a TASER weapon? How dangerous are TASER energy weapons really? What is the TRUTH about TASER?
The truth is: TASER energy weapons have been used to save more than 275,000 lives from death or serious bodily injury. TASER energy weapons have been used over 5 million times in the field, and in a study of 1,201 field cases of TASER energy weapon use, 99.75% resulted in no serious injury.
TASER technology is one of the most studied, safe and effective means of quickly stopping a threat. So, why are there so many misconceptions and myths around TASER energy weapons? As with most topics shrouded in mystery, the misconceptions stem from a lack of understanding.
Below, learn the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions related to TASER energy weapons and better understand one of the less-lethal technologies that will be integral in helping to cut gun-related deaths between police and the public by 50% in 10 years.
Q: Do TASER energy weapons electrocute people?
A: No, TASER energy weapons do not electrocute subjects. TASER energy weapons use electrical current to temporarily incapacitate subjects by inducing neuromuscular incapacitation, or NMI. NMI is simple. Basically, TASER energy weapons send a signal to your muscles telling them to flex. This is the same technology you see in off-the-shelf muscle stimulators used for rehab and muscle therapy. The amount of current actually delivered in this signal is extremely low, far below the amount needed to electrocute someone.
In fact, a single Christmas tree light bulb outputs more than 100 times more current than TASER energy weapons. (Light bulb = 156mA, X2/X26P = 1.2 mA, TASER 7 = 1.4 mA)
Q: Do TASER energy weapons have long-term effects?
A: TASER energy weapons are designed to temporarily incapacitate a subject only as long as the electrical cycle . . . meaning the subject can recover immediately and most feel no residual side-effects. There are no known long-term effects from being exposed to a TASER energy weapon. This is significant given that there are more than 850 reports, abstracts, studies and reference materials on TASER energy weapons, in addition to approximately 5 million field deployments over 25 years.
Q: Will a TASER energy weapon stop my pacemaker?
A:TASER energy weapons work by circulating electrical current through a subject, causing temporary immobility. However, the level of current delivered is actually quite low, well below the level necessary to interfere with a pacemaker. In fact, pacemakers are required by regulation to withstand an AED shock, which has thousands of times more energy than a TASER energy weapon. So no, TASER energy weapons will not stop your pacemaker.*
Q: What makes electricity dangerous?
A: Contrary to popular belief, what makes electricity dangerous to humans doesn’t have much to do with voltage, but rather with current. When voltage passes through an object or subject at a very high current, that can be dangerous. TASER energy weapons use a relatively low current, which provides a reliable safety profile and allows them to be classified as less-lethal weapons.
Q: Ok so voltage isn’t as dangerous as current, but still, how many volts of electricity does a TASER energy weapon deliver?
A:TASER energy weapons have the capacity to produce high amounts of electric charge. However, this is only to create a visible arc of electricity that can be used to de-escalate a situation without needing to deploy the weapon, or jump a clothing gap to make proper connection with a subject.
In reality, less than 2,000 volts of electricity typically flow into a subject when a TASER energy weapon makes a connection. And this electricity flows at a very low current, in a precise waveform, which is why TASER energy weapons are tested and proven to have a reliable cardiac safety profile.
Q: Are TASER energy weapons and stun guns the same?
A: No, TASER energy weapons and stun guns are not the same. With the average stun gun, the weapon works by inflicting localized pain to discourage a particular behavior. The weapon is turned on and driven into an attacker (drive-stun), allowing electricity to travel through their outer layer of skin and deliver a sharp pain for as long as the weapon is held in contact with the exposed area.
TASER energy weapons use electrical current to induce neuromuscular incapacitation.When a TASER energy weapon is deployed at a distance, 2 probes are released from the weapon. When both of these probes enter a subject, a circuit is created. Basically, we send a signal to all your muscles in between the 2 probes telling them to flex. For these few seconds, you are not controlling these muscles, and thus you become immobilized. This is the same technology you see in off-the-shelf muscle stimulators used for rehab and muscle therapy.
Note that some TASER energy weapons can be used in both drive-stun and probe mode, but probe mode is preferred because it is much more effective in stopping a threat.
Q: Do TASER energy weapons work better if they are deployed closer to a subject?
A:When a TASER energy weapon is deployed, 2 probes are released from the weapon at a pre-determined angle. When these probes make contact with a subject, the area between the 2 probes will receive the signal to flex.
So, the closer you deploy a TASER energy weapon to a subject, the less distance there will be between the probes. This means there is less muscle mass to stimulate, generally resulting in lower NMI. It is recommended that the probes be at least 12 inches apart to have the greatest potential for NMI. Different TASER energy weapons deploy probes at different angles.
Q: Is a TASER energy weapon more painful than pepper spray?
A: Pepper spray, or OC spray, works by spraying a chemical compound, causing temporary blindness. This spray effects the eyes, ears, nose, and throat and can cause burning and itchy eyes for a full 24 hours after exposure. In contrast, TASER energy weapon exposures are typically over in about 5 seconds and are not designed to result in lingering immobility or pain. However, exposure to a TASER energy weapon can be painful for individuals during that brief electrical cycle, so an exposure to a TASER energy weapon should be treated seriously. After exposure to a TASER energy weapon, it is recommended a subject be monitored for 20 minutes to ensure they are feeling well.
Q: Are TASER energy weapons used in other countries?
Law enforcement agencies in more than 80 countries and territories deploy TASER energy weapons. TASER energy weapons are a tool for resolving conflict with a less-lethal option, and have been used globally for over 25 years to save approximately 275,000+ lives from death or serious bodily injury in situations where lethal force would have been justified.
Q: Can you track TASER energy weapon usage?
A: TASER energy weapons are designed for safety, effectiveness, objective accountability and performance. All law enforcement and professional models released after 2011 are designed on an all-digital platform, allowing the energy weapon to provide objective analytics of use.
Unlike all other force options, the TASER energy weapon records event logs for every user action, including safety activation and trigger event duration with times and dates. Pulse logs also display an objective pulse-by-pulse record of delivered output. This information is recorded for safety and objective accountability.
Q: Can TASER energy weapons be energized for longer than their initial cycle?
A: TASER energy weapons are designed to incapacitate a subject long enough for law enforcement to secure the subject or for civilians to begin to move away from aggressors. However, TASER energy weapons can be used on a single subject for longer than the initial 5-second cycle where justified. A user can deploy a back-up cartridge to maximize probe spread and improve NMI effectiveness, or re-energize probes that have already made a successful connection when compliance is not yet achieved. Either scenario would incapacitate a subject for another electrical cycle or for as long as probes are re-energized. It is therefore imperative for both public safety and civilians to be trained on TASER best practices and follow any agency or state policies and laws that that guide TASER energy weapon use.
Q: Are TASER energy weapons legal for civilians to own?
A:TASER energy weapons are currently legal for civilian use in 49 of 50 US states. Additionally, the TASER Bolt 2, TASER Pulse and Pulse+ weapons are specific civilian models designed to incapacitate attackers for a longer period of time than those used by law enforcement, giving civilians time to distance themselves from a threat. In May of 2022, Rhode Island struck down R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-42(a)(1), opening a door for civilian TASER energy weapon ownership nationwide.
NOTE: Axon is not providing legal advice. Rules and restrictions around the sale and possession of TASER energy weapons vary by state. Before purchasing or possessing a TASER energy weapon, be sure to review all local laws in your state. For more information, please visit taser.com/pages/state-requirements
Q: Are law enforcement and civilian TASER energy weapons the same?
A:At the end of the day, all TASER energy weapons are designed to induce neuromuscular incapacitation, or NMI, but law enforcement and civilian weapons often have some differences. When a member of law enforcement deploys a TASER energy weapon, it is intended to incapacitate a threat momentarily to give the officer a chance to secure the threat. For that reason, the standard cycle of law enforcement TASER energy weapons is 5 seconds of electric current. For a civilian, the goal of deploying a TASER energy weapon is often to fend off an attacker long enough to get to safety. For that reason, many civilian TASER energy weapons are more compact, discrete, and have a 30-second cycle of electric current. Some civilian models even connect to bluetooth and can dispatch emergency service when needed. So no, law enforcement and civilian TASER energy weapons are not the same because they each serve unique and important purposes.
Q: Are TASER energy weapons intended for one time use?
A:Most TASER energy weapons, both civilian and law enforcement models, have a 5-year recommended useful life. When a TASER energy weapon is deployed, the used cartridge is discarded, but the TASER energy weapon can be reloaded with a new cartridge and deployed again. Sometimes, when an individual deploys their civilian TASER energy weapon, they may need to drop the weapon and run. In many cases, if you leave behind a non-professional series TASER energy weapon after deploying in self-defense, it will be replaced, free of charge.
For more information on civilian TASER energy weapons and replacement programs, please visit taser.com.
*Kroll, M.W., Brave, M.A., Pratt, H.M.O. et al. Benefits, Risks and Myths of TASER Handheld Electrical Weapons. Hum Factors Mech Eng Def Saf 3, 7 (2019).
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