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Watch out, boys, I’m packing a Lady Taser

Finally, dangerous weapons for women!As dainty as a disposable razor, the latest CED (conducted energy device), otherwise known as a stun gun, or…

Finally, dangerous weapons for women!

As dainty as a disposable razor, the latest CED (conducted energy device), otherwise known as a stun gun, or Taser, will fit in my little black purse — and match my shoes!

Taser just introduced the leopard print C2.

It also comes in metallic pink, as well as the more manly black pearl, electric blue and titanium silver.

“Who says safety can’t be stylish?” Arizona-based Taser International asks on its homepage.

That’s in the United States, of course, where it’s legal for civilians to carry Tasers.

Meanwhile, back in slightly more civilized Canada, municipal police in Saskatchewan have decided to remove CEDs from its arsenal, citing safety concerns.

So far, 22 people have died in Canada after being hit by a Taser, which can send 50,000 volts through a person with enough force and heat to cause a blister — and, under the right conditions, to kill.

Our most famous case is that of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died at Vancouver International Airport last October after being Tasered by RCMP.

Many of us heard his last words and blood-curdling cries on TV or radio.

The Mounties say he died of something called “excited delirium.”

A public inquest into his death will resume in October.

Our most recent death is of 17-year-old Michael Langan, who died in Winnipeg last week after being shot with a stun gun by city police.

Several years ago, a Whitehorse man died after being Tasered. He was fleeing from the RCMP when they shot him. He had ingested a large amount of cocaine right before being zapped.

Law enforcement in Canada appears to acknowledge a possible deadly connection between Taser use and drug levels in the victim, as well as the victim being in a state of “excited delirium.”

Taser International is content to submit that the weapons have never been directly blamed for a death. They have, however, been cited by coroners as contributing factors.

The RCMP seems comfortable with Tasers, despite the deaths associated with them.

But the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has commissioned research on Tasers that will finally give us a national perspective on the use and safety of the weapons.

Amnesty International wants them banned.

More than 290 people in North America have died after Taser shocks since 2001, says Amnesty International.

In Canada, the organization charges that Tasers have been used “inappropriately and excessively.”

“Children continue to be the victims of abusive use of Tasers by Canadian police officers.

“Cases documented by Amnesty International include the abusive use of the Taser by law-enforcement officers to rouse an unconscious man, to shock a 15-year-old as he ran from undercover officers, to jolt a 17-year-old 13 times in the space of 20 minutes and to awaken two sleeping men,” says a 2007 AI report.

Tasers are handheld weapons that deliver a jolt of electricity through a pair of wires propelled by compressed air.

The jolt stuns the target by causing an uncontrollable contraction of the muscle tissue. The target is immobilized and falls to the ground.

The device has a range of 4.5 metres, can last for up to 50 firings before needing a recharge, comes with an optional laser sight, and requires a background check before you’re allowed to buy one in the United States.

One of Amnesty International’s issues with Tasers is that, although they are programmed to set off an automatic five-second electrical charge, this only happens if an officer pulls the trigger then releases it.

“The electrical charge can be prolonged beyond five seconds if the officer keeps his finger depressed on the trigger,” says AI.

“The use of electro-shock weapons in such circumstances appear to breach international standards set out under the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms… (which) require that force should be used only as a last resort, in proportion to the threat posed…”.

In Britain, Tasers are considered part of the firearm category and restricted to use for self defence only, but in Canada, they are used by law enforcement to gain compliance, and in the US, they are used by whomever can acquire a permit.

Taser International makes virtually all of the stun guns being used today.

More than 12,800 law enforcement, correctional and military organizations in 44 countries use Taser International’s devices, according to an in-depth CBC report which aired in May.

“Of these agencies, more than 4,500 of them equip all of their patrol officers with Tasers. Since 1998, more than 260,000 Taser-brand immobilizers have been sold to law enforcement agencies.”

In 2007, 85 per cent of the company’s $100.7 million revenue came from sales within the United States, according to CBC.

The two main types of stun guns made by Taser and used by law enforcement are the M26, which has a laser sight for aiming and is marketed to police forces to stop “highly combative individuals,” and the smaller X26. Both can be launched from 10.6 metres.

The C2 is the personal-use Taser.

It is even smaller and comes in nine colours. It launches two probes as far as 4.5 metres.

Taser International is clearly proud to be putting lethal force into more delicate hands.

“Personal protection can be both fashionable and functionable,” says a company news release.

“The Taser C2 leopard print design provides a personal protection option for women who want fashion with a bite.”

 Juliann Fraser is a writer living in Whitehorse.