Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Skin Burning Laser Guns for the Police?

Police May Soon Use Pain Guns That Heat Skin With Microwaves
by Eliza Strickland of Discovery Magazine's Technology Department


According to the Justice Department's research and development agency, we may soon see policemen and women armed with laser or microwave guns. These non lethal "pain guns," are based upon the Pentagon's Active Denial System (ADS) that shoots a beam of short microwaves that burn the surface of the skin. The Justice Department is currently working on two guns. The PHaSR (Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response), that looks like a weapon from the movie, Starship Troopers, "uses an infra-red laser to heat a patch of skin about 4 inches in diameter, and pairs that heat with another bright laser that dazzles the eyes." The PHaSR is big and bulky and seems like it would be difficult to carry around, so I don't see it being that effective if the person carrying it has to change positions while fending off rioters. The second weapon is a down-sized version of the PHaSR that only has a range of about a meter, but has a stronger wave that can go through clothing and burn the skin.

The guns, according to the Pentagon, will "elicit a repel response," making the targeted person want to escape the beam. These guns could be used to control rioters, and I am sure there are many other situations where this type of non lethal force would prove effective. However, the cons greatly outweigh the pros.

At the most basic level; these microwave guns are just another weapon that can be used to inflict excruciating pain to a person. As the security expert, Steve Wright, puts it, the guns are "torture at the touch of a button." Just as there are many cases involving the misuse of tasers by police to inflict unwarranted pain, there will obviously be the same troubles with the microwave gun. Not all law enforcement personnel are first class citizens, and the temptation to use the microwave gun as a form of torture will be just as strong as it is with the taser.

Non lethal force of any kind is better than lethal force, but you think the government could come up with something other than microwaves and lasers. If the microwaves we use at home are not something we want running through our body, why would microwaves that burn our skin be any better?

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