Sunday, February 17, 2008

Taser And Gun Usage Statistics

One of the talking points taser advocates love mouthing is that tasers reduce the use of guns. The other day I pointed to a Naomi Klein piece debating that point.

Some data on that very topic have recently come out of Canda. According to the statistics, found by the Canadian press, gun use has remained about the same while taser use measures in the hundreds:
Statistics obtained by the Canadian Press bear out that idea, showing that in some of the cities that have recently adopted Tasers, the number of police shootings has remained fairly consistent and low, while Tasers are being used exponentially more often.

In Winnipeg, for example, police shootings of suspects are rare. There was one in 2003, and none in 2004. In 2006, the Winnipeg Police Service fired guns on suspects twice. They also started using Tasers in September of that year, firing them at individuals 37 times before the year was out.

"Tasers are not meant to replace firearms," Cst. Adam Cheadle, the service's use of force co-ordinator, said in a recent interview.

"The Taser is on the same playing field as a baton or [pepper] spray."

In Calgary, there was only one officer-involved shooting in 2003 — two years before Tasers were introduced — and none in 2007. So far this year, Calgary police have "deployed" (a term that includes any incident where the machine is unholstered and its laser is activated, even if it ends up not being fired) their Tasers 133 times.

In Montreal, police were involved in three shooting incidents in 2003, before they had Tasers. They also used their firearms three times last year, while firing Tasers 28 times.

The article quotes law officials conflicting each other. Some claim that tasers are just another use of force, on the level of a baton or pepper-spray; others claim that tasers are an alternative to guns (flying in the face of actual observation).

It's likely that taser-lovers will continue to simultaneously argue the two conflicting arguments. That's typical of delirious, power-mad, people eager to violate civil rights and conduct torture.

You'd think that inflicting excruciating pain on another human would violate some kind of constitutional protection (either in the US or Canada). I mean here in the US we're the good guys, right? We'd never use torture against anyone. I mean we're so good and righteous that we wouldn't even use a technique that simulates something as benign as drowning. Right? Oh wait....