DUBLIN, Calif.--Don't tase me, bro. Really.
CNET News took a trip to the Alameda County Sheriff's Office Regional Training Center on Friday to have a look at some of the newest equipment from Taser, which was among the companies showing off weaponry at the UrbanShield 2009 training event. The electric-shock gadgets are controversial and have drummed up some bad press over the years for causing the occasional serious injury or even fatality. But the company has maintained its insistence that they are significantly safer than the alternative (i.e. guns).
We didn't get to tase anybody. But we did get to see, a big Taser device that can incapacitate five or six people at a time, which company representatives told us is designed for crowd-control situations and can be triggered remotely via a 100-foot firing wire.
There are also two recently released handheld Tasers: the X3, which unlike its single-shot predecessors can fire off a total of three shots at once; and the XREP, a Taser projectile that's fired out of a modified 12-gauge shotgun (the modifications ensure that regular cartridges can't be used instead). Both devices are bright yellow, which representatives told us means they're easily identified as non-lethal weapons.
You can't go to your local sporting goods store and buy these Tasers--unlike the smaller, consumer-grade C2 devices, the X3 and XREP lines are only sold to police, military, and sometimes animal-control professionals. Taser International's vice president of training, Rick Guilbault, told us that a Taser was once used to pry off a rogue python that had wrapped itself around a woman's arm and wouldn't let go.
Another time, a Taser was successfully used to safely deter an out-of-control alligator in Florida. "But then they tried it in Australia on those big salt-water crocodiles," Guilbault related, "and that didn't work. It just made them mad."