Better measurement norms could mean safer stun weapons

November 14th, 2008 - 5:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 14 (IANS) Stun guns that momentarily incapacitate a person by delivering a high-voltage, low-current shock have helped the police to subdue dangerous or violent persons for years. But their use has also been controversial. They are believed to have contributed to more than 150 deaths in the US since 2001.

Now, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are working toward a standard for accurately assessing the electrical output of these devices, to establish baselines for future medical and safety studies.

Groups such as Amnesty International have called for guidelines for stun weapons that include “threshold exposures” (the minimum charges that would incapacitate different groups of people without putting them at risk for injury or death).

One obstacle to the development of such guidelines is the fact that various reports regarding the output of stun guns - the current and voltage they deliver - are inconsistent, according to a NIST release.

To address this problem, scientists in NIST’s Office of Law Enforcement Standards (OLES) have developed methods for calibrating the high-voltage and current measurement probes used by industry so that any inherent biases in the probes are minimised.

By compensating for these probe effects, voltage and current readings were obtained that reflect the energies being dispensed by the weapons.

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