Shock To The System

I bought a new bathroom scale last week. The purchase was necessary as my old scale was off by so much (25 lbs) that it was starting to give results that invoked the specter of this past June’s election polls. So I stopped in at a local fitness store and asked to be shown the model that all of the health freaks were using. The (impressively buff) sales lady showed me this metallic silver contraption that not only checks your weight, but also calculates your body fat ratio according to your height and age.

It sounded rather cool so I slapped my $109.00 down on the counter and departed the store with my new psychological torture tool, er, scale, tucked under my arm. The first thing I did when I got home was unpack it and insert a fresh set of batteries. Then I turned it over and saw the warning label:

“Persons with cardiac pacemakers and other implanted electronic devices should not use this scale.”


Apparently the scale calculates your body fat ratio by running a small electric current through your heels to measure the amount of resistance to the current. Various types of tissue have different resistances. While the voltage used is almost negligible, it’s enough to gronk a pacemaker. Luckily for me the scale also has a normal mode that measures weight only, so I didn’t have to return it.

Where am I going with this?

There exists a device called “the taser”. Like my scale, the taser will introduce an electric current into the body of its intended recipient. Unlike my scale, the taser uses a very high voltage and it is used with the intent of subduing violent people by rendering them unable to fight back (apparently it doesn’t measure their body fat ratio, though). The taser is a big hit with police forces around the world for obvious reasons.

A bunch of people are upset with the Vancouver police for using a taser to subdue a local artist named Robert Bagnell last month. Bagnell, a drug addict, was interrupted by the police in the middle of having a screaming fit and trashing a washroom in his apartment block. Unable to get him to respond to reason, the police zapped him with a taser gun to facilitate his arrest. He stopped breathing shortly afterward and died. The civil rights crowd is blaming his death on the taser and calling for greater regulation of its use. Robert Bagnell has inadvertently become the newest poster boy for Canada’s “ban the taser” movement.

I belong to the minority of Canadians that stand a good chance of being killed when subdued with a taser. If the five or so volts used by my bathroom scale pose a threat to me just think of what a good 50,000 volt jolt to the system would do to the circuitry in my pacemaker. It wouldn’t be pretty. With that being said, I’d sure hate for the police to lose the taser as a weapon. Why? Because I’m pretty sure that my chances of surviving a hit from a taser are better than my odds of surviving being shot in the chest with a gun, which is probably a cop’s next best option.

The taser has an impressive record of being used as a non-lethal alternative to fatal force by police. Even if the taser did lead to Robert Bagnell’s death, its use has saved countless other lives. Taking this tool away from our police forces would be a deadly mistake—not that I particularly care when a genuine criminal is killed—but there are mentally ill people out there who will benefit from this. My opinion is that the civil rights crowd is barking up the wrong tree this time.

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