Are Taser Guns Really That Bad for You?

taser gunDid you know you could die after being shot by a Taser gun? That's exactly what happened this past weekend to a man in his 50s who was Tasered at least three times and ultimately suffered a fatal heart attack. The police say he may have had drugs in his system at the time. 

There's also the case of a Chicago man who was Tasered 11 times after cops mistook him for a suspect with the same name. His lawyer says, "It literally fried him. It fried his mind. He has a great difficulty remembering what transpired while the electricity was passing through his brain.”

These stories have me wondering, how dangerous are Taser guns? Can they really give you a heart attack, cause other health problems -- or even kill you? How many shots are too many?


The website for Taser International, which manufactures the guns, says the weapons work by sending electrical currents into the muscle fibers, "jamming the nervous system." The Taser wave does this by "mimicking and interfering with your brain's communication with the muscles." That leads you to lose control of your motor skills.

Yes, they admit, a Taser's electrical waves are dangerous. But electricity is a natural part of your body's system. (I guess that's supposed to make us feel better about it?) The company has also said that the gun's waves are too weak to cause a heart attack. Phew! But wait -- in 2009, Taser International admitted there was an "extremely low" risk for "an adverse cardiac event" from their guns (that's a euphemism for a heart attack). They now advise police not to aim for the chest. So Tasers probably-maybe-likely won't give you a heart attack, fingers crossed.

Tack that on to a report by the National Institute of Justice finding that as long as you're a "healthy, normal, non-stressed adult," it's unlikely that a Taser jolt will give you a heart attack. 

But there are other health risks you should be aware of, including a few that surprised me. First of all, it's not like some laser beam shoots out of the gun like in Star Wars, as I've always pictured it. Instead, the gun shoots out probes with little barbs on the ends that send the electric currents directly into your body. There's the risk of those barbs getting stuck in your skin or even in your bone depending on how or where they land.

Second, if you have no control over your muscles, you have no control over how you land as you fall. You can't break your fall with your hands, so you may end up with a secondary injury -- a broken nose from landing on your face, for example.

One officer who was accidentally hit in the back of his skull went into a full-body seizure, rendering him unconscious, and when he woke up, he was confused about what happened. People have also reported sore muscles while they recovered.

I guess long story short, if you have a heart or other health condition, you really should behave yourself so you can avoid being shot by a stun gun. Tell your sons, boyfriends, and husbands. And police officers must get the proper training and avoid aiming anywhere near the heart. Easy enough, especially in those chaotic times when Tasers are most often used, right? Hardly. Still, I guess a Taser is a lot safer than a regular gun. Bzzzt!

Do you think Taser guns are too dangerous to be used by police? Have you ever been Tasered and did you have weird health effects?

Image via hermanturnip/Flickr

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