"Star Trek" has a lot to answer for

Last fall, when the Red Sox came back from losing three games to the Yankees and won the American League pennant, Bostonians were understandably excited. Excited enough to turn out and riot. In their attempts to disperse the crowds, Boston police used a variety of new weapons — including an air-powered gun that fired a pepper-spray ball. Unfortunately for one young co-ed, the officer’s shot went high and caught her in the eye. She subsequently died from the injury. Yesterday, the report on the incident was released.

This brought the spotlight on what the ignorant call “non-lethal weapons” and experts call “less lethal weapons.” And the discrepancy between the terms is a huge chasm.

We are now entering the third generation that grew up on Hollywood violence. In the world of entertainment, there are phasers set on stun, blows to the head or neck, and mysterious gases that can all safely render a person or persons unconscious almost instantly. And they are all fantasy.

There are no “stun guns.” Tasers and the like incapacitate, but as has been shown all too often, can often kill.

There are no safe blows to the head or neck — they, too, can kill, cripple, or permanently injure. Martial artists speak of being able to kill with a paper clip or a toothpick, not to mention their bare hands — and do so.

And there are no magic gases. After 9/11, there were a lot of well-intentioned people who suggested all airliners be equipped with “knockout gas” that the pilots could use to quickly and subdue every single person in the passenger compartment in case of an emergency. I heard an anaethesiologist address this one.

Rendering a person unconscious, according to this doctor, is almost as much art as science. It must be carefully calibrated to the individual. And a dosage that will knock out a grown man quickly will most likely kill a child or anyone with a breathing disorder (asthma, bronchitis, and the like). Just imagine the lawsuits and charges when the first airliner lands with three sleeping terrorists, 80 sleeping passengers, seven dead children, and four dead adults.

Hollywood has perpetrated a tremendous fraud on the public. There are no such things as “non-lethal” weapons. Any weapon can and will kill under the right circumstances. And any time anyone uses one of these “less-lethal” weapons, they better be damned ready to accept the possibility that the person they’re targeting may die.

I can understand why people want to develop more of these less-lethal weapons. There are very few situations where it would be preferable to kill someone, rather than disable them and take them into custody.

But it just doesn’t happen that way in the real world.

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  1. Rick Moran May 27, 2005
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