`Stun guns'

MODERN technology suddenly has provided a new disabling device that should be carefully reviewed by Congress and local government. The device, reported to disable a person temporarily, comes in two forms: pistol-sized ``stun guns,'' which must touch the target when fired; and ``tasers,'' which shoot a projectile up to 15 feet. Both use electric shocks.

The devices are billed by their promoters as a non-lethal alternative to handguns. The crime subcommittee of the US House of Representatives is researching the subject; within the month it is expected to decide whether hearings should be held and whether the issue should be dealt with by individual states or by the federal government through new law.

The new instruments might prove useful for proper police or prison work. Some law enforcement agencies now employ them. However, their use for interrogation, as has been alleged in New York, is improper.

The principal concern is that they will become widely available to Americans for personal use. Both weapons are expected to be marketed with that aim. Ostensibly, such use would be for protection. However, their obvious utility for criminals is already impelling some communities to move to regulate or ban them. Congress likewise should not delay in its review. ----30--{et

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