Stun guns are often promoted as safe alternatives to guns, but Tasers can have harmful effects on the mind and body, sometimes resulting in substantial, and even fatal consequences. Current health conditions, chemical substances in the body and the duration of the shock may all have an impact on the health risks of stun guns.
Dangers from stun guns
The Miami New Times recently investigated how three Miami police departments used Tasers. Police in the departments have used Tasers more than 3,000 times over an eight-year period. During that same time frame, 11 people died in what were described as Taser-associated events. Nationally, stun guns are in use by 17,000 law enforcement agencies and deployed approximately 904 times every day.
The investigation found police used Tasers when victims posed no danger to others, when victims were mentally ill, and police even tasered a six-year-old for a tantrum in the child’s kindergarten class. Police were also found to use Tasers on homeless people to get them to leave an area. Reuters estimates that more than 1,000 people have died after police used a stun gun on them since 2000, the year a significantly large number of police departments began using Tasers.
What a stun gun does to a person
The effect a stun gun has on a person depends primarily on the health of the individual and what chemical substances the person may have in their system. The medical journal Circulation published an article in 2012 that states Tasers can cause irregular heart rhythms and lead to cardiac arrest in some people. Stun gun manufacturer Taser International has acknowledged that repeated shocks with a Taser can impair breathing and contribute to “significant and potentially fatal health risks”. When a person is shocked with a stun gun, there are involuntary muscle contractions throughout their body. This can lead to metabolic acidosis because it dumps lactic acid into the bloodstream, increasing the risk of cardiac arrest and irregular heartbeat.
Possible effects on cognitive abilities
A study published in the Journal of Experimental Criminology found police recruits suffered significant reductions in several areas of cognitive function for several minutes after being shocked by a stun gun. Taser International acknowledges tasering can impair a person’s cognitive function for about an hour. While in a post-taser cognitive fog, it is possible a stun gun victim may waive his or her Miranda rights or reveal potentially incriminating information.