Re: Should we be developing nonlethal means of self-defense?

Michael S. Lorrey (
Wed, 29 Sep 1999 03:21:29 -0400 wrote:
> Ah, the old firearms debate!
> On the one side we have the right to bear arms, in other words the
> empowerment of the individual to protect their person, property, and freedom.
> On the other side we have gun control, with concerns about the loss of life
> due to guns, both threw accident and criminal activity. Legitimate concerns
> on both sides, I think; something often lost in the passionate heat of debate.
> When discussing this issue in the past, I have fallen on the side of gun
> ownership with a strong caveat that this requires responsibility on the part
> of the gun owner. When it is pointed out by gun control advocates that guns
> are dangerous, my answer has been that they are intended to be. The point I
> make is this; that when someone threatens you or another with grievious
> bodily harm, there can be no room for error. You need the most effective
> means of defense possible, which at this time means a large calibre firearm.
> And you can not rely on law enforcement to protect you; in a free society
> police really are mostly limited to reaction, and thus when violence is
> threatened, it is up to people of good conscience on the scene to protect the
> innocent. This is why I have supported the right of people to carry firearms
> on their person and to keep firearms in their home.
> Now then, lately I've been trying to reanalyze the gun issue in
> transhumanist terms. It seems to me that the transhumanist ideal would be to
> limit morbidity and mortality while preserving our protection from coercion,
> and that technology is likely to provide the best solution. In short, I
> suggest we need to develop a nonlethal means of stopping an aggressor which
> is as effective or more so than current firearms technology. What qualities
> would such weapons require?

While I share your ideal, I have the caveat that an enemy you don't kill, is still alive to come at you (or someone else) again. Considering that most crime is committed by repeat offenders, I think this argument needs weight here. I just don't care about the life of someone who values my life so little as to attack me, so my transhumanist ideals do not factor in...

> 1) Range - We need at least one nonlethal weapon which can be effective at
> ranges rivaling those of firearms (handguns at the very least). If at all
> possible, you want to incapacitate an attacker before they can close into
> melee range. On the other hand, we would also like a nonlethal option for
> when an attacker has been able to reach melee range (martial arts training
> would help, but where the attacker greatly outmasses the defender, and/or has
> training as well, this is not always effective).

My personal ideal is some sort of accurate squirt gun that fires a liquid that evaporates (to be breathed in) or soaks through the skin, to put an assailant to sleep. My caveat against this technology is that it will make kidnapping and rape crimes that will be much safer for the assailant to commit with such weapons. It will be more difficult to convict if the victim has not been physically harmed at all, so we would either have to a) be much more prepared to be victims, and b) much more prepared to convict someone on a lower threshold of evidence.

> 2) Reliability - We need a weapon that can be trusted when needed, often
> times after long periods of disuse. It needs to work effectively with almost
> every use. This is related to point three.

Any chemical solution will degrade with time. Any electrical charge will dissipate over time. We've had this discussion before as well. My conclusion was that any shock that you could deliver to a 300 lb. linebacker enough to knock him out would likely kill a 90 lb. kid or woman. being able to vary the shock at the point of impact by active measures on the projectile is very expensive and prone to unreliability (remember how many years it took to make AA missiles accurate).

> 3) Simplicity - A weapon for defense of the general population needs to be
> simple to use. The more complicated the operation of the weapon, the more
> likely user error will occur in the heat of battle. Also, simple weapons
> tend to be reliable weapons.

No, well built weapons with wide design tolerances are reliable weapons.

> 4) Stopping power - This is one of the most vital qualifications. The non
> lethal weapon needs to be able to stop any target a modern firearm could (and
> preferably better at it), and to be able to do so as quickly. We should not
> expect anyone to trade in a proven effective weapon for one of inferior
> ability, not when so much is on the line. Preferably, we want a weapon that
> only needs to hit approximately center of mass, can usually immobilize with
> one application, and completely incapacitates the aggressor. Also, the
> weapon needs to be able to penetrate some degree of obstacles (be effective
> through clothes, for example).

yes, a smart projectile, variable in impact based on body mass of target.