Many law enforcement agencies are crediting the use of Tasers – guns that use electric current rather than bullets to stop a suspect – with helping reduce the number of fatal shootings by police, reports USA Today. According to the manufacturer, Tasers are already being used by 5,200 of an estimated 16,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide. Tasers, in use since 1974, are handheld devices that shoot two probes attached to wires that can extend up to 21 feet and emit a peak of 50,000 volts of electricity.
Police cite these results: Seattle police last year didn’t have a single fatal shooting involving an officer for the first time in 15 years; in Portland, Ore., police fired Tasers 595 times from July 2002 through March 26, and a quarter of those situations met the criteria for officers to use deadly force instead, and police in Phoenix say the number of officer-involved shootings dropped 54% in 2003 after they began using Tasers. But some citizens groups and human rights activists have called for a moratorium on the use of Tasers until more is known about whether they contributed to several recent deaths.