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TASER Guns Aren't Lethal; There's Proof

Editorial by Steve Tuttle, for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Recent deaths in Georgia of suspects in custody have created an enormous amount of speculation about the safety of the Taser technology. At first blush, there is a tendency to equate the Taser energy weapon''s conductive current as a lethal byproduct in these sudden and unexpected deaths. However, the fact of the matter is that our Taser technology has not been the cause of a single death. Period.

In more than 30 years since the first Taser was introduced, there have been exactly zero deaths clearly caused by the Taser. This statement is supported by independent medical examiners. Moreover, published data from esteemed medical publications and hospitals establish the safety of our technology. Our own research conducted at the University of Missouri has shown the electrical output will not interfere with cardiac tissue even if the suspect is under the influence of extremely dangerous narcotics.

It is an unfortunate fact that thousands of people die in law enforcement custody each year. Some have indeed been subdued with a Taser energy weapon in the course of their struggles with police. In each and every case, independent medical examiners have determined the cause of death to be due to a variety of factors, usually heart disease, chronic toxic drug use and protracted overexertion during struggle with law enforcement officers. There has never been a single case where the Taser was named as the primary cause of death by any of these independent medical examiners.

That''s why it''s important to look into the actual cause of death and not engage in the "guilt by association" approach. More than 70,000 volunteers have been hit with the Taser. More than 45,000 actual suspects have been hit with the Taser in the field --- again, with zero fatalities attributed directly to the Taser.

Unfortunately, the media have played upon these deaths. Despite its high voltage, the Taser''s electrical output is simply too low to affect the heart. Moreover, as one leading cardiac expert said recently, the chances of the Taser''s electrical frequency causing damage to cardiac tissue is as likely as someone receiving a cellphone call on their AM radio.

We encourage continual medical reviews of Taser technology, but the public should have a better understanding of what our nonlethal Taser technology can and can''t do.

Steve Tuttle is director of communications for Taser International.

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