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Do Stun Guns Really Work?

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A stun gun is a hand-held self-defense weapon designed to ward off an attacker by means of an electric shock. The shock is delivered to an assailant by touching the person with the stun gun's two prongs located at the front end of the unit and pulling the trigger.

Stun guns offer a range of advantages over other self defense weapons. Unlike knives, brass knuckles and batons, stun guns easily fall into classification as non-lethal weapons because they are designed to incapacitate an attacker but not kill him. The stun gun was not designed to cause serious injury nor inflict permanent harm. And, unlike pepper sprays – which need to be directed at an attacker’s face or eyes, a stun gun works on any part of the body.

Other advantages of a stun gun include portability and the ability to function on standard alkaline or lithium batteries. And, unlike guns, stun guns require much lesser time to practice in order to be proficient in their use.

Even the most powerful stun guns do not have the potential to cause permanent damage to the brain and or cause long-term neurological effects. Though there have been a few cases of stun gun-related deaths, but these involved individuals suffering from health problems.

Although some of the more powerful stun guns have voltage as high as 5,000,000 volts, their amperage is low – usually around 2 to 3 milliamps. Amperes measure how fast electricity travels while voltage measures how much electricity there is. For electricity to be fatal it has to be at least 1 ampere.

The shock delivered by a stun gun interrupts the neurological signals between the brain and the muscles causing disorientation and loss of balance. The attacker loses control of his muscles, collapses and stays immobile for a few minutes.

A study by the University of Bradford UK on the early history of non-lethal weapons said the stun gun traces its modern roots to farming and torture. The picana electrica was used in Argentina in the 1930s as electric cattle prod – replacing the traditional barbed cattle prod. Combining low amperage electricity with portability, the picana electrica evolved into a torture device used by the Argentinean police during interrogation.

When calls for the development of non-lethal weapons emerged in the 60s and 70s, the picana electrica and similar electrical weapons found themselves now classified as “non-lethal” weapons. The stun gun would even receive endorsement from self-defense guru, Col. Rex Applegate. In his 1969 book on managing riot control, Applegate advocated the use of the “shock baton” by the police as a non-violent and humane compliance tool.

Nowadays, stun guns range from the lowly 100,000 volt models to the very powerful 5,000,000 volt models. Prices range from the just under $20 cheap stun guns to the more powerful and/or feature-rich models that fetch around $70. They also come in a host of shapes and designs – cellphones, lipsticks, flashlights, brass knuckles and stun batons.

Anyone interested to buy stun guns are advised to check their local laws before making a purchase. In some states like Connecticut, Illinois, New York and New Jersey, stun guns are restricted. Several cities, too, have laws that restrict the ownership of stun guns, these include: Annapolis, MD, Chicago, District of Columbia and Philadelphia.