Re: Should we be developing nonlethal means of
Fri, 1 Oct 1999 23:10:53 EDT

In a message dated 10/1/1999 12:46:09 AM Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

<< a) an armed law abiding civilian at a crime scene is five times less
likely to kill an innocent person than a cop at the same scene. While I have heard of numerous occasions where a cop shoots or kills an innocent at a crime scene, I personally have not heard of any civilian doing so.>>

I can't think of a case myself, but I don't really know either way. Anyone else out there know of a case of a civilian shooting the wrong person?

<< b) considering the stats show that the Death Penalty, as a policy of
punishment under a judicial system, involving due process, right of appeals, trial by jury, etc. has no impact on violent crime, while death penalties meted out by law abiding individuals at the scene of a crime do have a measurable impact, I would rather that we see more of the latter and less of the former.>>

I agree that the current legal system does not act as a credible deterrent to violent crime at present, but I think it could be made to work. How about a speedy trial followed by an immediate extra-jurisdictional review to guarantee there were no improprieties, followed by cryosuspension until such time as the court can guarantee that the perpetrator can be certified as not a danger to others and the victim deems to it appropriate to have the perpetrator thawed out? Or if later evidence is found which exonerates the prisoner they can be reanimated as soon as technology allows. It might be a hot day on Pluto before they get released (if ever).

<< c) the stats also show that for every 1% of the law abiding population
that carries arms, there is a concurrent drop in crime of 2%. I have not seen stats for those using non-violent means of defense, of course, but I think we can assume that anyone NOT using a lethal means of defense is obviously using a non-lethal means of defense, no matter what its effectiveness.>>

I would not be surprised to find this is you have any references I could check out on these statistics?

I think it too early to say what the effects of nonlethal weapons on crime rate, but I would suspect that it would be strongly related to the efficacy of the weapon, just as I suspect that it is for lethal weapons. If my gun only successfully kills or incapacitates an attacker one-in-ten times,then it is likely to be less of a deterrent. Of course, lethal weapons as a general deterrent can be less effective overall due to the increased devastation that success brings (of course, making sentences tougher and surer would offset this advantage--though just how tough they'd have to be to do so might be an issue).

<< I know. The evidence from the Waco incident show how difficult it is to
control the dosage a target receives. The CS gas (a chemical weapon banned under international treaty for use in warfare, but quite legal for a government to use against its own people under that same treaty for police purposes (i.e. we aren't that much better than Saddam
in this situation)) that was used in those projectiles was meant to be used in open air situations. In the closed, indoor situation they were used in, they quickly overdosed the targets to lethal levels.>>

I am not familiar with the information about CS toxicity in overdose, do you have any references on that I could look up?


Were you referring to me? Historically, I've actually been fairly conservative, pro-war (in a just cause properly executed), and fairly statist by Extropian standards. As far as acceptable losses, I don't really think there are "acceptable losses" but sometimes you have to accept some risk (or even near certainty). Actually, to one degree or other I do that every day (being in medicine); it's not fun, but sometimes its just not avoidable.

<<The hand grenades known as 'flash-bang' grenades are not lethal under
most circumstances (though I imagine that if you stick it in someone's mouth that would not be the case) but are quite effective in stunning/incapacitating most people, will rupture the eardrims of those closest, and basically enable a rather small person to dominate a oversized opponnent who has been stunned by such devices.>>

Two problems with flash-bangs that I can think of; I'm not sure they could be deployed quickly enough in a situation where you weren't ready to use them, and their effect only lasts a several seconds to a few minutes so you'd need a follow-on weapon.

<< While I share your sentiment with regards to reducing harm to victims, the danger is that reducing harm also reduces evidence. While use of DNA evidence might counteract this, it is still highly suspect by most typical jurors (i.e. those too dumb to find an excuse to get out of jury duty). Reducing evidence in real crimes makes it either extremely hard to convict, or you must lower the burden ov evidence to the point that many innocent persons will go to jail based on false or incomplete cases.>>

I've been thinking about this, and I think there really might be some options to reduce this problem. One idea would be to have the nonlethal weapon incorporate GPS technology and a transmitter which would notify the authorities when the weapon was fired and where (of course this would make doing a little target practice with your weapon hard...could probably go to a firing range which would be deemed a free weapons release zone during operational hours). Also could build in a small camera that could upload pictures of what was being shot at. Of course, these probably could be circumvented, but it adds one more hurdle for the criminal use of the weapon (there have also been some ideas mentioned for raising a hue and cry with special effects like smoke, light, etc). One idea that I think might put a serious crimp in the usage of the liquid firing taser and perhaps some other types of nonlethals would be to include a malodorous, long-lasting substance like skunk musk to the stream. This would have a couple benefits: marking fleeing criminals who only received a glancing blow, providing a physical sign of the weapon's use upon a victim (and this may make it more difficult to sneak the victim away), and likely providing a big deterrent for would-be rapists (be difficult to sexually assault someone when you feel like puking your guts out from the smell). Of course, since this marker would not be an intrinsic part of the weapon, it would likely be possible to mix up a batch of ammo without the added scent, but again it would make it harder on criminals. And as opposed to lethal weapons, it would be a lot harder to coerce a victim into compliance with the threat of use (what yah gonna do, stink me up and carry me off?...go ahead and try).

<< The projectile, or the device (projector) must have some ability to sense the IR cross section of the target, and use ultrasonic or laser beam to sense the range, and vary the energy imparted. Ruby diode lasers are small enough that they are already being built into a normal pistol's grip, I would expect miniaturizing a receiver sensor would be of similar difficulty. IR sensors though that can measure cross section (i.e size) would be more difficult and problematic.>>

Thanks, I see what you mean now. If the tech could be made reliable (which I think it could be), then that would be a solution...though I think it might be defeated in a situation where an aggressor is using a hostage as a shield.

<<The only other possibility I see is to forcibly embed ID chips in people
that have a transponder that transmits body mass, ID, and legal status information. Of course this is highly problematic from a civil rights perspective, so much so that I would be highly opposed to such schemes.>>

I don't think I would like that to be in effect either.

<< I've also envisioned bullet that would be rubber coated, with a very
soft core of lead or other dense but soft material (to maintain momentum). Using high twist rates on the barrel rifling or other means of imparting high spin rates, such bullets would flatten out from centripetal force within 10-30 yards, and strike the target as a large flat object, like a big slap. Such an impact would not break the skin but would be significant enough to stun an attacker as much as a punch from mike tyson.>>

I think the problem with kinetic energy weapons is that they are designed to disable by doing damage (granted mild damage) to the body. But unless you use overkill (lethal) levels of kinetic energy, I think it would be difficult to name a precise level of kinetic energy that will guarantee immobilizing an attacker.

Thanks for the input, Mike.

Glen Finney