Tests find older Tasers may fire 'fatal' current
Nick Juliano
Published: Friday December 5, 2008

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Stronger current detected in some tested stun-guns

Independent tests of stun-guns manufactured by Taser International, which provides virtually all the weapons to police forces, shows some older models of the weapons fire currents that are up to 50 percent stronger than the company says, and medical experts say such a strong shock could be fatal.

The Canadian Broadcasting Company and Radio-Canada commissioned a US laboratory to test 41 Tasers. The tests showed nearly 10 percent of the tested weapons fired a stronger current than the company claims.

The tests' designer, University of Montreal biomedical engineer Pierre Savard, says they provide a rare glimpse at the effectiveness of Taser's weapons, which are not subject to rigorous independent examination.

"I think it's important because Taser is not subjected to international standards," Savard told CBS.

"When you use a cellphone, well, cellphones have to respect a set of standards for the electric magnetic field that it emits. The Taser, well, nobody knows except Taser International."

The four faulty stun-guns were all manufactured before 2005, raising concerns that the weapons deteriorate with age. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police tell CBC they will be pulling a sample of their own Tasers for testing based on the results.

Savard says weapons that fire a too strong current present a dangerous situation because officers are trained to fire the Tasers directly at a target's chest.

"When you combine an increased current intensity with a dart that falls right over the heart for somebody who has cardiovascular disease or other conditions such as using drugs, for example, it can all add up to a fatal issue," he told CBC.

Since 2001, according to the Arizona Republic, more than 380 people in the US and 26 in Canada have died after being struck by a Taser. In 30 of those deaths, the Taser was " a cause, contributing factor or could not be ruled out," the paper reports.

Taser International, based in Arizona, dismissed the study as flawed. The company maintains that its weapons are safe.