Non-Lethal Weapons: An Asset or a Danger?
The use of so-called "non-lethal" weapons by law enforcement has become a controversial issue encompassing a broad range of different-- and often conflicting--laws, rules and regulations, as well as procedures. While some experts point out the incorrect terminology of some of these tactics and devices--claiming they should be renamed "less lethal weapons"--they are clearly effective methods of subduing, stopping, and disabling a threat without the use of firearms.
There are many different types of non-lethal weapons used in criminal justice, with varying degrees of severity, delivery methods, and naturally issues. The following is a list of commonly seen non lethal weapons employed by law enforcement agencies across the country, as well as the issues they present:
- Electricity delivery methods: Electroshock guns, also known as conductive energy devices, are seen very often. They can be most frequently seen as guns that fire prongs attached to wires, allowing the operator to deliver an electric shock to the target every time the trigger is pulled. They can also be much smaller, with two metal prongs depending on contact to deliver the shock. Conductive energy devices can be very effective in stopping a target, but they do raise some important medical issues. For instance, if someone has certain cardiac conditions, seizure disorders, as well as other medical diseases or disorders, an electric shock could very well be fatal.
- Alternative types of ammunition: Very often employed by Corrections Officer's, specialized ammunition can be very effective, but also very dangerous when not used properly. There are a few different types of alternative ammunition available depending on your location, including but not limited to: rubber bullets, beanbag rounds, as well as ring foil projectiles. Propelled by lower velocity powder and propellants, these types of ammunition are viable alternatives in some scenarios, but carry their own host of problems. If any of these projectiles strike a person in the wrong area, they can be equally as fatal as a bullet.
- Non lethal explosive devices: Usually employed in situations that are very out of control, these devices can come in many different forms. Flash bang grenades emit a very high pitched noise, as well as a bright flash of light to disorientate a target or targets. Grenades filled with tear gas, pepper spray, as well as rubber shrapnel have also been used as an alternative to lethal force as well. Again, the problem is there is very little control when throwing a grenade, so the likelihood someone can be seriously injured or killed increases dramatically.
- High impact paintball guns: Recently, high velocity paintball guns have been used in conjunction with paintballs filled with pepper spray. This is a very effective method, and especially more so when the chemical spreads into the eyes of the target. The downside to this type non lethal weapon is accuracy--striking someone in the eye could result in permanent damage.
The use of non lethal weapons in law enforcement has both positive and negative aspects. While they can be a significant deterrence, as well as an assistance to law enforcement officers, when used incorrectly and proper policies are not enforced and maintained people can die.
Non lethal weapons are a hot topic because they can be dangerous, however in crisis situations they can also be vital tools for law enforcement officers--saving lives by decreasing the need for firearm use.
About AJ Romano
I am a life long student who believes ardently in the Socratic method. I love to read, absorb information, and write--write--and write some more! I live to learn, teach, and for my lovely fiance.