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article imageReview: 'Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle' highlights the Taser problem Special

By Michael Thomas     May 1, 2015 in Entertainment
When Tom and Rick Smith invented the Taser M26 model, they had every intention of giving police a non-lethal alternative to guns. As 'Tom Swift and His Electrical Rifle' shows, however, those intentions didn't translate to perfect safety.
Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, drawing its name from a century-year-old young adult novel, begins with a disturbing image. A video shows Jack Cover, the inventor of the Taser, testing out his new machine on a buffalo. As soon as the beast gets up, it is stunned again and again. It sets a foreboding tone for the rest of the documentary, and makes it clear the direction it's heading.
The documentary details the rise of Taser after Tom and Rick Smith bought the rights from Cover, and as the Smiths developed the weapon from the "Air Taser" to the Taser M26. Tom and Rick both repeatedly stress in front of director Nick Berardini — and various courts of law — that their weapon is completely safe. In fact, more than 300 medical studies apparently prove this.
Various news clips over the years show the mighty Taser momentarily incapacitating big, hulking men, but most importantly, the men regain their faculties moments later.
Of course, this scenario doesn't occur 100 percent of the time, as highlighted by a few high-profile courses. The Robert Dziekanski case is one Canada will not soon forget, and the repercussions of it still echo to this day.
Despite the fact that Tasers have been involved with at least 500 deaths in the United States, the Smith brothers refuse to admit that maybe there might be a problem. Inquiries be damned, they will not say their product is unsafe.
As the documentary gets deeper and deeper into the issue, it becomes harder and harder to walk out of the viewing while still thinking the weapons are a nonlethal alternative. It becomes almost jaw-dropping to the extent Taser's executives will defend it.
This kind of exposé-style documentary should be a wake-up call to enforcement agencies across the world. To some degree, it already has been, causing Taser's shares to fall.
But then again, Taser's shares are on the rise due to one of its newer products — body cameras. So maybe more discussion is needed.
To see the Digital Journal's 2015 coverage of the Hot Docs film festival, click here.
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