Taser International, whose electrical guns are used by thousands of police departments, says a federal study endorses the safety of its guns; the laboratory that conducted the research disagrees, the New York Times reports. Taser said last month that the government study, whose full results have not yet been released, found that its guns were safe. Since then, the company’s stock has soared and its executives and directors have sold $68 million in shares, about 5 percent of Taser’s stock and nearly half their holdings. The Air Force laboratory that conducted the study now says it actually found that the guns could be dangerous and that more data was needed to evaluate their risks. The guns “may cause several unintended effects, albeit with low probabilities of occurrence,” the laboratory said last week after a symposium on Tasers and other weapons intended to incapacitate people without killing them. Other data presented at the symposium raised questions about one of Taser’s key claims about the effectiveness of its newest and most expensive weapon.
“The evidence suggests that far from being used to avoid lethal force, many police forces are using Tasers as a routine force option,” said Curt Goering of Amnesty International. “The way these weapons are being used in some circumstances could constitute torture or ill treatment.” Amnesty has called for police departments to stop using the guns pending an independent inquiry into their safety. The group will release a report next week documenting police abuse of Tasers. More than 70 people have died since 2001 after being shocked with Tasers, mainly from heart or respiratory failure. Tasers are largely unregulated and have never been studied for their safety or effectiveness by the Consumer Product Safety Commission or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. For two years the Defense Department has studied Tasers as part of military research into weapons designed to be effective without being deadly.