Human rights groups and academic researchers are stepping up calls for safety studies and national standards governing the use of electric stun guns after a series of deaths as well as incidents in which the weapons were used against children, reports the New York Times. Sale of the guns to police departments has slowed since last fall, with some police chiefs saying they do not plan to deploy them without more research into their safety. But other departments are moving forward.
No federal agency regulates the guns, which are known as Tasers and are sold to civilians as well as police departments. Taser International, the Arizona company that makes them, staunchly defends their safety. Concern over Tasers has mounted since last week, when a 14-year-old boy suffered cardiac arrest and a 54-year-old man died in separate incidents, both shot with Tasers by Chicago police officers. Those episodes followed several recent cases in which the police used Tasers on children, including a 6-year-old boy who was shocked by a Miami officer after refusing to drop a piece of glass. Since 2000, almost 100 people around the country have died after being shocked, although medical examiners have rarely cited Tasers as a cause of death. Taser International says the deaths often resulted from drug overdoses.