Taser's Effects Often Debated

Tasers often generate as much controversy as they do electricity.

In Texas, it is legal to purchase them, and stores in our area sell them, but other states restrict or even ban tasers.

According to taser.org, New Jersey prohibits police and citizens from using the electronic shock devices, while Massachusetts and Rhode Island have limits on police use. Public use legalities vary from state to state, though the major of states allow individuals to own a taser.

Bryan PD are among the law enforcement agencies that use tasers. Officers use an X-26, which according to the company, will hit you with a maximum of 1,200 volts. However, voltage isn't the electrical killer, according to many experts. By comparison, you can touch your hand to a doorknob and get a spark, and you're sometimes getting thousands of volts.

With electricity, many experts say current is the killer, and a taser is designed to send high voltage with low current. Also, taser blasts don't last very long. The longer you're hit with a higher current, the more deadly the electricity can be.

However, there are instances that opponents of tasers point to in their quest to outlaw the device. There have been deaths in cases where one has been used, including a recent incident in Montgomery County.

In late February, authorities responding to a report of a possible suicide attempt met up with Robert Welch of Houston, who was said to have been unresponsive to family members and shoving people in a home. Authorities tased Welch when he resisted officers, according to the sheriff's office. Welch stopped breathing, and later died at an area hospital.

Amnesty International cites more than 350 deaths since the start of American taser use in 2001. Taser International, the main manufacturer of tasers in the US, counters that the devise has been cleared as the cause or a factor in most of those deaths, and that its safer than most items on an officer's belt.

Some studies have shown some possibilities for lasting problems. In fact, a recently released study out of Canada examined one of the only known instances of someone getting tased in the head. That person suffered mild traumatic brain injury and post concussion syndrome, though they did fall to the ground, which could have caused those injuries in part.

Bryan PD officers used tasers on 22 occasions in 2008, compared to 26 times in 2007. Brenham PD and the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office also use them.

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