The U.S. Justice Department has begun to study Tasers, the stun guns increasingly popular with police departments, in the face of new questions over their safety, the New York Times reports. Rusty York, the police chief of Fort Wayne, In., said a Justice Department researcher, Joyce Gammelmo, contacted to follow up on a report in a local newspaper that the city had decided to buy Tasers after studying them since early 2003. After York outlined his department’s work, Ms. Gammelmo encouraged him to do more research before buying the guns, York said. More than 70 people have died after being shocked with Tasers. Manufacturer Taser International says the deaths were not related to their use. York said he had decided to delay the purchase before Ms. Gammelmo’s call because too many questions about the safety of Tasers remain unanswered.
The Justice Department has financed a study at the University of Wisconsin to determine how electrical currents move through the body, as well as a study at Wake Forest to examine injuries caused by Tasers and similar weapons in real-life situations. Joseph G. Estey, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said the group was working with the Justice Department to examine issues surrounding the weapons.