Banal Documentaries
Chomsky Film
Domain of Demands
Emporer Penguin Evolution
Lottery Life
Peace School

Personality & Classification
Police Interrogations
Press Ethics
Stun Guns
Suicide Bombers
Target Civilians
The Criminal/The Military
Time Memory
Ways of Life
A Good One of Those

Stun Guns

The fact/opinion distinction can seem pretty tedious, but right off the pages of the daily paper here is an example of some real consequences.

The press reports that the police department is considering buying stun guns for its officers in light of an increase in the number of citizen-police contacts and a rise in the crime rate. When admonished that this was a non sequitur, the reporter insisted on the appropriateness of presenting the department’s case to the people.

But if the department’s ‘case’ involves an assumed connection between crime/contact rate and stun guns, it is incorrect as a matter of fact. That is, no efficiency claims have been made for these devices. At best, they provide a constant level of force protection with a decrease in lethality.




When crime rates increase work loads increase for law enforcement, so the logical response is to enlarge the force. Suggesting that stun guns could be a material response to an increase in crime rate involves a mistake of fact since stun guns do not increase efficiency.

The makers of stun guns would love to advertise them as a palliative for financially stressed departments, but they don’t because they would need to have the data. Departments would treat the manufacturers’ claim as a claim of fact; something that may not be true. Why does the same suggestion, when attributed to the department rather than the company, become a matter of policy?

The reporter could have saved us all this agonizing by simply asking the police chief what he believed to be the connection between crime rates and stun guns?














©Al Katz • Prof. of law SUNY, Buffalo, 1969-1989 (ret.)