December will establish if taser guns will be officially used by the Italian police
In the last three months, twelve Italian cities saw the Italian Fiscal, Military and Police Forces — Guardia di Finanza, Carabinieri and Polizia respectively — run a trial period of taser guns use. Requested a while back in 2014, the measure was strongly supported by these same forces who stated that taser guns would be more effective than pepper spray and less damaging than a regular gun. It will be decided this month whether tasers will be become part of the security forces or not.
Our current Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, declared on his Facebook page that “taser guns will help agents perform better. For too long, our forces have been abandoned, it is our duty to guarantee them the best instruments to defend at their best the Italians…”. However, others remain sceptical on this regard.
Taser, an acronym for Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle, was built for the first time in 1969. It uses electricity to paralyse on the spot whoever is shot. Powered by a battery, they generate about 50 volts at a low intensity, thus it is not supposed to cause irreversible damage.
The Italian police explained that only some of their agents will be provided with tasers, whose yellow colour will act as a warning to the localized subject, and a cautionary electrical charge will be released before shooting. The advised shooting distance is 3 to 7 meters, after having considered the surrounding environment in order to avoid the subjects falling and injuring themselves on the ground.
Amnesty International declared that in the US, since 2000, tasers have killed over one thousand people. However, taser was not generally the direct cause of these deaths. Frequently, the attacked subjects were indeed suffering from other kind of illnesses. We must add that a common understanding of how things work in the US is the ease with which police officers use guns – of any kind – and physical force on (too frequently posthumously discovered innocent) civilians. In Italy, we are still fortunate not to worry (too much) about this issue with few, sporadic events here and there. Still, the United Nations included tasers in the list of torture equipment.
In Europe, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, United Kingdom, and Czech Republic have agreed to provide their officers with taser guns. In Italy only a few weeks ago, on the same day, a civilian was attacked with a taser gun by a thief and his were things stolen, while in a hospital an officer used it against a man who was becoming physically aggressive and dangerous to be around and for himself. Hence, we are seeing two sides of the same coin.
Gun control and education
Regular guns have also killed both at the hands of civilians and officers. Regulating guns has helped keep gun control among both civilians and officers. Nevertheless, we should recall that being officers, these people are humans. Hence, there will always be cases of improper use.
After all, for an officer to be cautious of its surroundings before shooting with a taser gun sounds quite ridiculous, because the reality of certain circumstances is different. In case of defence, or even attack, police officers not necessarily have enough time to process their surroundings. Their immediate attention is whatever the circumstances occur.
As with most things in this world, education is essential. Education in the sense that the use of tasers, or any other weapon, should continue to be regulated within the police forces and the public. A hand controls the taser, therefore, we should also focus on educating this hand and the mind controlling it. Both kind of guns are unpleasant to think in circulation, but the kind of society we live in requires some protection for officers and for us. There might be a lower chance of dying if one is tasered rather than shot. Hence, tasers might not be such a bad idea.
It may lead officers to use it with less consideration, but it may decrease number of deaths caused by guns. We have to sit and watch how society and the justice system react to taser guns, and if they become a fixed reality in our security system.