Fun with Pain Rays, Sound Cannons and Other Non-Lethal Weaponry

Illustration for article titled Fun with Pain Rays, Sound Cannons and Other Non-Lethal Weaponry

This week's New Yorker (yep, you heard me right) has a cool piece on the development of non-lethal weapons for military and police. You can tell the writer, Alec Wilkinson, had a good time reporting it. The story focuses on Charles Heal, a badass part-time Marine and part-time LA Sheriff's Department officer known in some circles as "Mr. Non-Lethal Weapons." As a product evaluator and consultant, Heal has helped create about 25 different non-lethal weapons, including:

• Throwbot: A small camera on wheels that can enter rooms where a gunman might be hiding
• SkySeer: a UAV with a camera meant for urban police work
• PepperBall: Think paintball, but with pepper powder
• Bola Ball: A bolo that cops would use to trip up assailants (proved a tad hard to master)

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The piece covers some sweet demos, like Raytheon's Active Denial System pain ray (which we've mentioned), the TigerLight pepperspray-shooting flashlight, and a blinding laser cannon meant to "visually dissuade" assailants.

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At the end, the author and Heal visit to the HQ of one of the most successful non-lethal weapons: MAD, or magnetic acoustic device. It's not new, but it's only now being explored as a device for police forces. It's a sound projector that can shoot audio up to a mile in distance, and when it projected the sound of .50 cal machine-gun fire, the author says it sounded like it came from a gun "the size of a backhoe," and mentioned that all the birds in the vicinity took off in fear.

The link will give you a digest of the piece; I think you'll need to find an actual paper copy to read the full story. (What's up with that, New Yorker?? No love for the internet?) [New Yorker]

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DISCUSSION

@ppiddy: whether or not you agree with the use, its hard to fault these companies for attempting to be less lethal.

Speaking only for the U.S., as I don't know the laws of other countries, guns are always going to exist here, absent some HUGE status quo destroying event. As such, law enforcement, as well as the general citizen should have the ability to defend themselves, their family, or their home. If someone does not want to use a gun, I think it a good step in the right direction that other alternatives are available.

And for every person who has been injured by misuse of a tazer, I think about all the people who have been killed by the misuse of guns, and I consider them acceptable damages. Think about that Brian Nichols [en.wikipedia.org] Had the deputy only had a tazer or pepper foam on him, there would have likely been no deaths.

So, I stand by my original statement, that it is good and appropriate for companies to develop less lethal weapons, as there will always be a need to stop those who will not listen to reason or logic.

@Wilson Rothman: The article is great, and I think it does discuss the ethics well. I also liked your coverage. Keep up the good work.