General Question

Hobbes's avatar

Is there any situation in which it is better for a Police officer to have a firearm than an accurate and quick-acting tranquilizer gun?

Asked by Hobbes (7257 points ) July 12th, 2010

We might have to spend money developing a gun that could fire a tranquilizer dart as accurately as a bullet and that it would have a similarly instant effect, but it seems to me that this would save countless lives, preserve the mental stability of our Police force (since they would never have to shoot anyone) and make the communities they police see them in a better light.

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62 Answers

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

The tranquilizing agent would have to instantly immobilize a wide range of people of different body sizes, levels of intoxication, atypical drug reactions, etc without overdosing others. This problem has been worked on for at least 50 years. Most police officers carry less-than-lethal weapons already (Taser, pepper spray, “bean bag” shotgun rounds), but in the face of an armed attacker there is often no substitute for the stopping power of a bullet.

TexasDude's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land is right.

No sane person likes to shoot to kill, but sometimes it is necessary. If I was being held hostage by a cracked out thug with a gun to my head, I’d want the cops to pop him with lead and make sure he’s down rather than risking my innocent life by being “humane.”

Hobbes's avatar

Suppose we were to put enough time and money into solving this problem, however. Do you think it would be a worthwhile goal to invest in such a tranquilizer, given the possible benefits?

LuckyGuy's avatar

When a perp is shooting at an officer you want the quickest knockdown possible. The impact from a shotgun or large caliber handgun alone can put the shooter on the ground. If you have to wait 600ms for a lightning fast CNS agent to work, that gives the perp time to fire off 2 more rounds. Dangerous.

“Don’t taze me, bro!”

marinelife's avatar

I think I have a problem with the instant tranquilizer. i don’t know of anything that has that effect.

A lot could happen in the seconds the other person who is armed with a gun takes to fall down.

Hobbes's avatar

@worriedguy – You say that “the impact from a shotgun or large caliber handgun alone can put the shooter on the ground”. Why not then use something that strikes with the same impact but diffuses the force more (instead of being a pointed piece of metal) so that it doesn’t then proceed through the person?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Yes. Any situation that might put the officer at risk of defending themselves against others with fire arms…which is practically any situation the officer may encounter.

Tranquilizer guns are for veterenarians and game wardens.

Hobbes's avatar

Thanks, I wasn’t really aware of the current state of the technology. So, my new question is: is it worthwhile to devote as much time and energy as necessary to develop some kind of non-lethal weapon which is as effective as a handgun?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I see no incentive to develop non lethal weapons to use against offenders brandishing lethal ones for bad intent. If I was in danger or my loved ones then I’d want serious drop power on our side.

TexasDude's avatar

@Hobbes, at 25 yards, a typical 9mm +p round has about 1500 feet per second of velocity and about 650 foot pounds of energy. That is often enough, but sometimes it takes several shots to knock down a perp that is large, densely muscled, or hopped up on hard drugs. Just about any projectile fired at that velocity is enough to be lethal.

Also, part of the “knock down” power of bullets depends on where it strikes the body. A hit to any part of the central nervous system or any vital organ will drop a perp. A dart or a non lethal projectile really wouldn’t be efficient enough to cause this to happen without still being lethal.

Facade's avatar

I agree with @Neizvestnaya. What’s with people not wanting to harm people trying to harm them? I honestly don’t get it.

Hobbes's avatar

Do you mean, though, that any non-lethal alternative we might reasonably develop would not be this efficient?

All I’m saying is that the objective of the Officer should be to guarantee that the subject cannot do any more harm, and I think it’s worthwhile to put as much energy as necessary into devising a way to do this that does not require killing them.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Hobbes
There’s always something in the makes but nothing yet consistent. Some crackheads pointing guns drop with a taser and some keep on going. Fark that taser.

Facade's avatar

@Hobbes The offender is aiming to kill the officer. The officers need to have more powerful weapons than the offenders they encounter.

Hobbes's avatar

I think it’s interesting that the example of a drug-crazed thug has been used several times independently.

@Facade – I don’t believe that’s true. I think that officers should have weapons powerful enough to quickly and reliably subdue the offenders the encounter when necessary. I don’t think that this necessitates killing the person except in rare circumstances.

Facade's avatar

@Hobbes Ever heard of “shoot to kill”? There’s a reason for it.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am just curious where you folks who think the police should have lethal weapons stand on the death penalty???

Someone here just had a heart attack from being tasered and now the cry is for police to carry only water pistols with lemon juice. JK, but it is not too far off the mark. I think there are probably some police who shouldn’t be allowed to carry a weapon, but for the most part they are well trained and responsible and use their weapons in self defense or defense of other innocent citizens.

Spend the money on cancer research instead of tranquilizer guns to protect criminals.

TexasDude's avatar

@rooeytoo, see this for my feelings on the death penalty.

A life or death standoff situation is different because a snap decision (which can result in death) must be made or else innocents will suffer. The death penalty is different because it is a premeditated punishment to an act that has already occurred.

Lethal force can save innocent lives. The death penalty is just a punishment that arguably helps nobody.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Hobbes There are bean bags and rubber bullets now that offer knock-down energy at relatively close range <20 meters. Unfortunately, the speed and thus the kinetic energy drops off very quickly as you increase distance. A lead projectile loses energy too but nowhere near as much.
A shooter taking cover behind a piece of drywall will still be knocked down by a handgun round. Would the tranquilizer dart do that?

rooeytoo's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard – interesting, I remember hearing Johnny Carson say something like Republicans are opposed to abortion but in favor of capitol punishment, it’s all a question of timing! I guess you are basically saying the same thing.

TexasDude's avatar

@rooeytoo, I’m just trying to take the most pragmatic approach.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I’d like to hear from the English Jellies. Guns have been outlawed there for years, and only a specialized law force group is allowed to carry one.

Facade's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer In that case almost no one has guns, so it’s a fairly level playing field.

TexasDude's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer, that hasn’t stopped the bad guys.

And yes. Civilians are mostly banned from gun ownership in the UK. BUT, there are still regular shootings over there. Funny how that works….

El_Cadejo's avatar

Wouldnt it be a lot easier to shield from a tranc dart shooting into you than say a bullet.

What about a sonic gun? though ive read even those can be lethal

Hobbes's avatar

I think that the death of a criminal should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. If the person in question is armed and likely to kill an innocent person, that may be one of those situations where lethal force cannot be avoided, but I don’t think that the hypothetical “armed standoff with a drugged-out crazy who can’t be negotiated with or otherwise subdued” situation is really that common.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Facade Exactly. And…their injury/mortality rate % from gunshots is lower than the USA’s.

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Yes, there are still shooting incidents, like the one that occurred recently where a guy went on a shooting spree. I don’t think it would be considered a regular occurrence though; at least not compared to the # in the US. And you are right….they are mostly banned, but it is limited to certain types.

perspicacious's avatar

I would like to see the guns replaced with something that simply knocks one out.

TexasDude's avatar

Well… I just found this… uhh… Lightsaber thing.

john65pennington's avatar

Depending on why the person is under arrest, the taser will be effective on about 70% of people tased. the other 30% may have psychological problems or high on certain drugs. the latter cases, the taser will have no effect and the officers firearm may be the only remaining solution. each situation is different and deadly force is never used, unless all other means of arrest have been eliminated. this only pertains to felony situations, not traffic stops.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@john65pennington @john65pennington I’ve been waiting for you to share your insight.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard dude that thing is fuckin awesome

TexasDude's avatar

@uberbatman, definitely, assuming it works. It looks like someone made it in their dorm.

augustlan's avatar

Assuming such a thing existed (non-lethal weapon that is as effective and timely as a gun), I’d be totally in favor of your idea.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@augustlan That weapon does exist. It’s called education.

roundsquare's avatar

A lethal weapon is scary. I want criminals scared of cops.

Hobbes's avatar

@roundsquare – While that may be desirable, it also contributes to a fear of cops in the communities they police.

syzygy2600's avatar

There is no such thing as a tranquilizer gun that can knock someone out in a few seconds. Best case scenario you’re looking at at least 10 minutes for them to be out. As others have pointed out, it can also depend on the individuals weight and resistance to drugs. Do you really expect cops to shoot someone with a tranq and then wait 10 minutes for them to drop, giving them more time to hurt innocents? Even if they put enough drugs in the tranquilizer to knock someone out in a few seconds, that much drugs would probably kill them anyway.

Hobbes's avatar

I have doubts about that “10 minute” statistic, but even if its true, do you think its impossible to develop such a tranquilizer?

syzygy2600's avatar

This is not Hollywood. This is real life. It takes time for a sedative to work. If a doctor is to inject a sedative directly into someones vein, they will pass out almost instantly. If someone is shot with a tranq dart, the sedative has to make it’s way into their system – it is not the same as an injection. 10 minutes is actually a conservative estimate, it would probably be even longer in most cases. If they could develop a sedative so poweful that being shot with a dart coated in it would somehow magically distribute it through your bloodstream and instantly knock you out, I’m sure the cops would already be using it.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

We should all be dropping more love bombs on one another. They have an instant effect, though I’m not convinced they are non lethal.

Hobbes's avatar

All I am saying is that I think it is worth putting more time and energy into creating a non-lethal weapon as quick and effective at disabling a person as a firearm, so that cops do not need to kill people.

woodcutter's avatar

if the perps assume the worst thing that will happen to them is a tranq hangover they will have absolutely no fear if they ever had any to begin with. I want the bad guys to fear. Besides, even if there was a successful prototype that would really work, chances are it would be prohibitively expensive for municipalities to purchase in numbers. It’s like micro stamping spent shell cases. It don’t work and the cost to outfit an entire police force makes it a no go. How many people would really agree to pay higher taxes to make life safer for methheads and such? just a thought.

Hobbes's avatar

Presumably the purpose of law enforcement is to ensure that a criminal is brought before trial, not to murder them. If they are found guilty, they would face whatever sanctions were assigned to that crime. The only reason a Police Officer should have to use violence is in order to neutralize the threat long enough for them to be cuffed, and an efficient tranquilizer would allow them to do this without needing to murder anyone.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think more time and effort should be put into finding a cure for cancer and not worrying about being nice to criminals. And if you are too young to care about cancer cures then let’s spend it on education.

It always seems to me that the great majority of those who worry the most about taking good care of criminals are those who are not paying the taxes to support these magnanimous gestures. A generalization but with some merit.

Hobbes's avatar

I do not think it is a question of being “nice”. The courts may be very harsh if the people desire them to be. But punishment is not meant to be carried out by the officer – that is the job of the legal system.

I absolutely agree that more time and effort should be put into finding a cure for cancer, but I don’t think it’s an either-or proposition. If anything, why not spend less on state-sponsored murder?

I am not proposing anything about what should happen to criminals after they appear before a judge. I am proposing that the options an officer has when faced with a threat should not be killing or dying.

woodcutter's avatar

if a cop has to use deadly force it will be to stop the perp now. The cops also have families they would like to see again and a shooter who is intent on not going down without a fight just isn’t worth the risk. it isn’t supposed to be fair. The cops don’t get paid to have their ass handed to them. Another thought there will be times, almost in every case that the bad guy is covered behind something hard that a dart will not go through. The bad guy with a firearm and the cops with a tranq gun. You couldn’t pay me enough. Murder is when you up and kill an innocent person not in self defense. And its wrong. Being forced to kill a person who is doing harm to others?....murder?, no, no it’s not. And we really don’t need a jury to corroborate the facts when there is full battle rattle going on between the cops and those wanting to kill them.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Massive lurve to @woodcutter!

Hobbes's avatar

@woodcutter – Don’t cops have non-lethal tools for flushing people out from behind cover? Tear gas for example? Also, it seems to me that the average handgun round would not pierce through anything but the thinnest cover and still have enough momentum to do damage.

Remember too that I’m talking in hypothetical terms (as I love to do). I’m aware that there isn’t a tranquilizer currently available which would be as effective as a handgun, but I’m imagining that such a thing could be developed.

woodcutter's avatar

@Hobbes Sure the cops have those and if the tactical situation allows they would deploy them. But remember it is the perp who is calling the shots and LE has to react. Cops have shotguns and center fire rifles similar to the M-16 and other long guns for penetrating hits. Also time is a factor with these situations. the situation needs to resolved expediently to hopefully not drag out to where it will spin into something way bigger than it was to start with. The longer it takes the worse it gets. I would not want their job, unless I could work in Mayberry.

john65pennington's avatar

I only have one problem with your question and the other answers.

A tranquilizer gun has many faults. No. 1, its practicing medicene without a license, No. 2, some people are so high on drugs that a tranquilzer has no effect on them.

I have been in a situation where a state trooper stops a traffic violater on the interstate. The driver is high on morphine and does not feel pain. The driver goes into a karate position and the trooper shoots him in the arm. This does not phase him. He is then shot in the leg. This has no effict. Finally, the driver is shot in the face with a shotgun. This ends this story.

Hobbes's avatar

“The driver is high on morphine and does not feel pain. The driver goes into a karate position.”

Are you saying it was actually necessary to kill a motorist high on morphine who tried to use karate on an armed police officer? How much of a threat is a guy using his bare hands while whacked on a depressant (which impairs motor function)? To me, this illustrates why police officers shouldn’t always carry guns. It seems to me they could have knocked him unconscious, cuffed him, or just wrestled him into the back of the cruiser.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I agree with Hobbes. Sure they dont feel pain, but they are some of the most uncoordinated fuckers you can ever encounter. I dont see how a trained officer (though I have a hard time believing it would be just one and not many) would have any problem wrestling a morphine fiend to the ground.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am not sure how I feel about this situation but there is a condition called suicide by cop which has to be a consideration. Also I have to say until I have walked in the shoes of the cop in each question, I don’t feel I can make an accurate judgement. Those who sit in judgement are being Monday morning quarterbacks with 20/20 hindsight. I admire most cops, they have a thankless job that takes a hell of a lot of courage, I don’t think I could do it.

Hobbes's avatar

“there is a condition called suicide by cop which has to be a consideration.”

What do you mean by this What is suicide by cop?

“Also I have to say until I have walked in the shoes of the cop in each question, I don’t feel I can make an accurate judgement. Those who sit in judgement are being Monday morning quarterbacks with 20/20 hindsight.”

It is a basic truth of human existence that we cannot know perfectly what it is like to be in another person’s shoes. We can imagine, but we can never truly experience what another person is experiencing. However, I don’t think that fact should prevent us from raising criticisms and concerns with others’ behavior, especially where people’s lives are concerned.

“I admire most cops, they have a thankless job that takes a hell of a lot of courage, I don’t think I could do it.”

This is true, and many individual cops are good people. However there has also been a history of corruption, racism, and abuse of power within the US police force as a whole. Cops are trained to intimidate people, and I would argue that far too many of them are trigger happy.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Hobbes – well let’s just hope that the next time you need one to defend you in any way shape or form, they have not read your responses. To say that “far too many are trigger happy” is about the same as saying far too many college students are lazy, want everything handed to them and are always looking for a way to avoid a real job and the real world. Probably most are not like that, just some. Sweeping generalizations about any group comprised of millions is never fair or equitable or even intelligent.

rooeytoo's avatar

@augustlan – thank you for the link. There was a case in Australia not too long ago where a 15 year old bragged he was going to get the cops to kill him and he succeeded. It is sad for everyone involved.

Hobbes's avatar

“To say that “far too many are trigger happy” is about the same as saying far too many college students are lazy”

I realize it’s a generalization, but I don’t think it’s the same as other qualities, since people’s lives are at stake. You’re right that a generalization like that probably doesn’t accomplish much, but if a thing like “suicide by cop” is possible, it seems to me there is something deeply wrong with the relationship between cops and the people they serve.

Hobbes's avatar

Because the thing is, some college students do fit that description. Now, that doesn’t matter as much because the only person it affects is the person in question. However, when we’re talking about life and death, the fact that some cops are trigger happy makes a big difference.

HungryGuy's avatar

That would be ideal if police had instant-acting tranquilizer guns instead of lethal weapons. The problem is that there is no such thing. The fastest tranquilizer agent still takes a few seconds to act, and that’s too long when a bad guy is shooting at you or has a hostage at gunpoint.

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