Re: Should we be developing nonlethal means of self-defense?
Thu, 30 Sep 1999 17:33:40 EDT

Emlyn O'Regan wrote:

>I'm pessimistic about non-lethal means of self-defense (that's unlike me, I
>know). I think that it's very difficult to design a "self defense" mechanism
>which is not a form of attack, no matter how softly softly it works; these
>things can be used on non-attackers as easily as attackers.

Actually, I agree on this point. Notice how throughout my posting I refer to a non-lethal weapon. Any device that is used to physically impose the will of one over another I would consider a weapon. But since even objects not originally intended as such can be used as weapons, I do not consider it practical or even desirable to do away with specifically designed weapons. However, I do think it a worthwhile goal to explore whether weapons can be made to have less harmful sequelae while still retaining their effectiveness as weapons.

>There is an assumption which must be made when designing this kind of
>all-purpose non-lethal weapon, which is that lethal weapons are also
>available. Glen works under this assumption - I'm just making it explicit.

Thanks for stating it, you're absolutely right that I assume lethal weapons are available, and I think that needs to be clear. It is almost inpossible to remove lethality from the world.

>A corrolary is that non-lethal weapon must be able to defeat the best lethal
>weapons, or make a good stab at it (ha ha). The kind of nice-gun style
>weapon described in Glen's post seems doomed to be second rate, because
>pushing a bit of speeding lead real fast is easier than any of the
>round-about nice-gun solutions, which also involve firing a (perhaps
>complex) projectile, with all kinds of other burdens (like non-lethality) to
>contend with.

I am also a bit dour about this. Actually, one alternative that seems somewhat attractive is a form of stun gun which uses a high velocity stream of saline solution to carry the charge. Other non-lethal possibilities which might be able to overcome these limitations would be energy weapons like sonics and especially EM weapons (hey, travels at the speed of sound, my man<g>), of course the problem being that although these methods have been mentioned in the past, its never with any good explanation as to how they could effectively incapacitate the target and still be nonlethal in most situations.

>My other objection to the idea of non-lethal weapons is that they are still
>weapons. A weapon with the qualities that Greg described would appear to be
>a rapist's weapon of choice! Imagine being shot in the streets of a big city
>by one of these devices. How long do you have to lie there, totally
>helpless, before you regain control or someone comes to your aid? What
>happens to you during that time, especially if your attacker is still around
>(which seems likely)?

Well, I never thought I could get rid completely of weapons, nor of crime. Perhaps we could build in some neat sound and visual effects to make these weapons as conspicuous to use as firearms, which would help to dissuade the less industrious or technically capable of our theoretical rapists, however any such warning effect would likely be vulnerable to deactivation if it were not an intrinsic part of the operation of the weapon. This unfortunately makes it likely that at least some criminals will be able to use their weapons stealthily. Of course, this same vulnerability may appeal to those who wish to defend against aggression by more organized oppressors, like an invading army or dictatorial government. True, a nonlethal weapon wouldn't be as useful as what such forces would carry, but neither is a handgun, but you could use it for ambush to liberate more effective weapons (in which case a silent, nonlethal weapon might actually be more desirable<G>).

Glen Finney