Longform

Shocking Accusations

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Smith admits Amnesty has a "valid complaint" about his electroshock weaponry's potential misuse.

"They look at this," Smith says, indicating his latest Taser model. "They say, 'What it does to the human body is not nice, it's uncomfortable and this could be used to torture somebody.' They're right. But as soon as you put a man in prison with another man in control of him, you now have a situation where if you don't have the auditing controls in place there's the possibility of a myriad of types of abuse. Anywhere I can light a light bulb on planet Earth I can use a wire to torture you. So I'm not sure that's a good criteria for evaluating whether or not something should be available."

The counter-argument is that legitimizing stun weapons makes them acceptable to use in prisons where car-battery torture techniques would never be permitted.

"The distinction here is that [household torture] equipment has both legitimate and unintended uses," Hodgett says, "whereas we know from our research that this equipment is being abused worldwide."

Taser International claims to provide its weapons to 60 countries, and Smith admits he has no qualms about shipping to countries with a record of human rights violations.

"Philosophically, I do not agree with the concept of export controls on a weapons system like this, even to a country like China," he says. "The governments of those countries are going to make decisions irrespective of the availability of technology. Take Tiananmen Square. If they had more effective less-lethal technology, would they have rolled in with tanks?"

Advocating the export of weapons to China is a tough corner to defend -- especially for a capitalist claiming a humanitarian agenda. But Smith thinks his argument holds. An optimistic vision of promoting peace through weaponry.

"I think we can continue to develop better weapons, better guns, safer guns," Smith says. "And most people -- most rational human beings -- will gravitate towards the better technology. This is the gun of the future."

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James Hibberd
Contact: James Hibberd