I’m reading a non-fiction book that has me fascinated: Freakonomics. Basically, by using economics in an odd way, it details the way life changes in sometimes hugely unexpected ways, from seemingly unrelated events. One of the truisms in said book, is how people are unpredictable when incentives to do (or not to do) something are applied. It states that people, by nature, are motivated universally by incentives. It may not be of any concern as to whether or not others may consider that “incentive” trivial, so long as the “beneficiary” deems it worth the effort for the reward.

I saw that theory put to the acid test today. For a baseball cap with the company logo on its brow, the participant willingly allowed himself (only males applied) to be “tasered”. Now you’d think that after the first person permitted himself to be “electrically stimulated into rigidity”, in front of a live audience, that the pool of volunteers would pretty much instantly dry up. But in reality, there was a constant stream of folks who deemed that hat more important than possibly soiling their pants in front of a large crowd. And trust me on this, from the guttural noises emitted once a person is hit with an undulating dose of amperage that this thing can produce, smart money says this must be as much fun as a filling a cavity without anesthesia. For a Taser is nothing like a stun gun. A stun gun only produces localized pain. The Taser uses a “patented neuromuscular incapacitation (NMI) technology” that varies the waveform of the pulses to prevent you from becoming too cozy with mild electrocution. …… And all of this, for a hat and a keychain.

Being the level-headed geek that I am, I decided than rather than to be on the business end of this compliance enhancer, I wanted to actually fire it. So I went into the specially constructed Lexan booth on the second floor of the display for that very purpose. It was then I realized that my accompanying friend, possibly concerned that I may without permission, decide to involve him in this learning exercise, had deferred to another booth posthaste. He needn’t haven’t worried as cocktail time was still hours away. The rep explained how it worked and fired, which took less than a minute. I also discovered how excitable some reps become after being locked in a small enclosed space, with a complete stranger waving about a fully charged, loaded and “un-safetied” Taser with seeming casual abandon. I can only guess my sense of humor was lost on him.

A light touch of the electric firing button, BANG!!, and two stainless steel barbed probes (manufactured by the Eagle Claw fishhook company , no less) shot out at over a hundred miles an hour propelled by compressed nitrogen to the fifteen foot range limit of the civilian model, into the chest of my paper assailant. Unfortunately, so did the replaceable cartridge that contained the wires that connected the Taser to its electrical probes. So, if this was a life or death situation and your Taser just misfired, I’d have to imagine your attacker now has absolutely no sense of irony. I also bet that since no special license/training is required for a Taser, the money you saved by not going to concealed handgun carry classes isn’t quite the bargain it once was.

To be completely serious here … as serious a two geeks discussing who was the best captain of the Enterprise. (it was Shatner, of course) I can absolutely appreciate the notion of a non-lethal deterrent, but only if it’s 99.9999% dependable and effective. (Many high quality pistols have the ability to fire thousands of rounds without a single misfire.) And in many police actions you have other officers to “back you up” with firepower should this method fail at the last second. If this was a (no pun intended) one-shot affair, you would finish in second place … which in a violent attack, second place is the same as last place.

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