Taser v. Tomato

I get a sick feeling whenever there is a spike in the stats for my taser posts because I know, somewhere in North America, someone has died after being tasered.

The past few weeks were no exception; I knew something was up – I just didn’t have the heart to write another post on this issue so soon. Yesterday I updated the death march and the statistics are sobering indeed. Twenty people have died in North America since Ohioan Kevin Piskura’s death.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, there has been no media call to arms urging investigation into why we are experiencing, on average, a death a week from the use of this deadly device.

If 20 people had died from eating beef, tomatoes or taking over the counter medication the media would be all over the story, even though the ratio of use to fatality would be astronomically greater. Google news stories on “tomato recall” and you will find over 5,600 articles analyzing the issue in minute detail, including tips on how to protect yourself.

Google news “Taser recall” and you will get 13 articles. Google news “Taser investigation” and you will get the basic story of where and when victims were tasered, but no hard investigative journalism. No hue and cry about safety.

Taser deaths merit little attention outside the communities where they occur.

In spite of the mounting death toll proving that Tasers are deadly, Taser International continues to succeed in passing the devices off as non-lethal. News outlets accept Taser International’s representations at face value without asking questions. The sole exception to this was award winning Robert Anglen’s 2005 in depth investigative series documenting that

Taser International was deeply involved in a Department of Defense study that company officials touted to police departments and investors as “independent” proof of the stun gun’s safety, according to government documents and e-mails obtained by The Arizona Republic and interviews with military officials.

And Taser International’s marketing folks are working hard to make sure we only see feel good stories about taser use. CNN offered up light hearted videos of party pink tasers and in a segment called Producer Gets Tased, Bro! CNN’s Jim Spellman is tasered a police trade show.

Each video reinforces Taser International’s claim that their devices are safe. And people are buying it – especially, it appears, in Ohio. The Toledo Blade reports:

It’s not really a party until someone fires a Taser.

At least, that’s Ma ggie Tys on’s philosophy. The suburban Columbus woman recently started a company called Columbus Taser Parties that facilitates gatherings where people can learn about, buy, and even fire a personal Taser.

To give Blade reporter Ryan E. Smith his due, he did cite Amnesty International’s objection to Taser use; he even cited statistics. Too bad his numbers were wrong and somehow he completely missed the fact that just a few weeks before his article was published Ohioan Kevin Piskura died.

And taser packin’ Maggie isn’t alone in joining Taser International pushing tasers to Ohioans. The Toledo Blade reports

Very soon, truckers and motorists will be able to buy a jolter with their jolt of java at TravelCenters of America Inc. truck stops, 11 of which dot Ohio’s roadways.

So I can go to a taser party or to any Ohio TravelCenters of America and buy a device that has been associated with a death a week – but I can’t get a tomato on my sandwich because that would be – dangerous.

Wake up people – tasers are not “non-lethal”! Wake up media – people are dying every week – do your job and cover the news.

And note to all you Taser party ladies, especially Mr. Tuttle’s 73-year-old mother who got her very own taser for Christmas, if you are overpowered that device will be used on you. Thirty seconds of 12,000 volts (longer bursts, in fact, than law enforcement models produce) is going to cause you a world of pain. And it might just take your life.

I wonder what Mr. Tuttle would say then?

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