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Monday, May 12, 2008

Taser boss says weapon saves lives

May 12, 2008
Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - The chair of the company that makes Taser electrical shock weapons says the device is not risk-free but has been proven to save lives.

"Are Tasers risk free? No, they cause people to fall down," Tom Smith of Taser International told a Taser inquiry in Vancouver today,

He compared the use of Tasers to that of air bags, which inflate during car crashes. He said air bags cause some deaths but save many lives.

He said Tasers save 70 lives for every life lost.

Smith said it is a common myth that there has been no independent reseach of Taser use.

One of those attending the inquiry is Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, who said outside the hearing that he remains unconvinced that Tasers won't cause death. "I believe the science is incomplete," he told reporters. Dosanjh, who will testify later today at the inquiry, approved use of Tasers in B.C. in 2000. He said he was misled at the time, saying he was told during a briefing that Tasers were totally safe. He now believes the weapons need further study and national standards should be set for police about when they can be used.

Smith said there are about 300 documented deaths that occurred after Taser use in North America, including 20 in Canada, of which seven were in B.C. He pointed out only 30 of those deaths listed the Taser as a contributing factor. "I think it's extremely low," Smith said of the risk factor of using Tasers.

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