August 08, 2006

Self-Defense : Why Not "Non-Lethal?"

It's not unusual for a gun or knife nut to be asked the question. Coworkers, politicos, or friends, who think that defending yourself with lethal force

So, why not?

  • "Non-lethal" weapons aren't. Chemical sprays can be deadly to individuals with asthma. Tasers have killed people with preexisting heart problems, and multiple applications in a short period of time can do the same to healthy individuals. Blunt weapons can break bones, or, again, kill. That's why manufactors of these tools are trying to get the name "less-lethal" to stick.
  • They aren't always, or even often, effective. Blunt weapons and chemical sprays disable through the application of pain - eventually an opponent is overwhelmed and will do something else to make the pain stop. As a result, they are not effective on those that won't register pain, such as drunks or druggies. Tasers require a conductive surface, and as a result, will 'bounce' off those who are. Low-voltage tasers (under 200kv) will only incapacitate an opponent for seconds, while high-voltage tasers are increasingly risky.
  • Control is significantly more difficult. A can of CS spray can be knocked out of your hands very easily, even in situations where a gun would not be. Many touch tasers sacrifice their grips for increased concealability, and thus you risk tasering yourself. Comparatively, an opponent trying the same thing to a blade will end up ginsuing their own fingers.
  • Legally speaking, using a less-lethal weapon such as CS spray or a taser is battery with a dangerous or deadly weapon depending on state. Use is justified only as self-defense if your opponent has the ability, opportunity, and capability to cause significant harm to you. In short, by the time you are justified in using a less-lethal weapon, you probably need to be using a gun.
So, you pick up a less-lethal weapon and you now have a tool that is not perfectly adapted to your plan of use, at more personal risk, and negate no legal risk. Did I miss anything?

The biggest danger is that individuals will use non-lethal weapons as toys. This is already a significant problem in the police forces, where nearly a hundred individuals have died after the use of tasers, in some situations where the use of force was not justified.

That's not to say less-lethal weapons don't have a place. They're a good option to have. But they can no more replace a gun or knife than a Post-It note can replace a notebook or computer.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should also consider that most major PDs stress to their officers that lethal force options should be immidiately avalable such as a back up officer with gun out, when less lethal force is used.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006 4:17:00 PM  
Blogger Gatt Suru said...

That's a valid point, and I have to admit I wasn't aware of it. I assume that it arose after the Rodney King incident?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006 7:49:00 PM  

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