Less-lethal weapon

Less-lethal weapon

Less-lethal weapons, less-than-lethal weapons, non-lethal weapons, non-deadly weapons, or, more recently, compliance weapons are weapons intended to be unlikely to kill or to cause great bodily injury to a living target. In the past, police (or soldiers) called to a riot were primarily limited to use of bayonet or saber charges, or firing live ammunition at crowds. Less-lethal riot control weapons were developed to reduce the loss of life in such situations.


Originally, as stated above, officers had few if any non-lethal options for riot control. Common tactics included a slowly-advancing wall of soldiers or officers with batons, or a charge into a riot using the flats of sabers. In the mid 1900's with the integration of fire-control systems into major cities, police found that the use of high-pressure fire hoses could be effective in dispersing a crowd (the use of water cannons and fire trucks has remained an effective tactic to disperse riots). Trained police dogs were also commonly used to scare and disperse rioters.

In the 1980s, the development of the high-tensile plastics Kevlar and Lexan revolutionized personal armor and led to new tactics for riot squads and other special-purpose teams. Officers could now stand up against violent rioters throwing objects without having to resort to lethal methods to quickly disperse the danger. Coupled with the introduction of effective non-lethal chemical agents such as tear gas and offensive odor canisters, and non-lethal impact rounds such as rubber bullets and "bean bag" flexible baton rounds, riot tactics were modified to resort less on violent response to attacking rioters and a return to the slowly-advancing wall, with supporting officers firing non-lethal ordnance into the crowd to discourage advance.

Police officers on patrol were traditionally armed with a baton and/or pistol, and non-lethal methods of subduing an attacker centered on hand-fighting techniques such as Jujutsu and baton use. In the 1980s and 1990s officers began deploying non-lethal personal sidearms, such as pepper sprays and eventually electroshock weapons such as Tasers, which were developed for use by police and also found a market in self-defense by private citizens. However, these weapons were developed for non-lethal de-escalation of a one-on-one conflict.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, interest in various other forms of less-lethal weapons has risen, both in military and police contexts. The interest arose because the use of less-lethal weapons may, under international law and treaty, be legal in situations where weapons such as lethal gases are not, as well as further efforts to keep the peace after conflict.

In 2001 the United States Marine Corps revealed its development of a less-lethal energy weapon called the Active Denial System, a focused microwave device said to be capable of heating the outer skin of a target individual or group to approximately 130° Fahrenheit (54° Celsius) in about two seconds, causing intolerable pain. The system is designed to be nonlethal as subjects will try to escape the beam immediately, but if escape from the target area is impossible, the device can produce lasting burns after several seconds' exposure.

In 2004 author Jon Ronson revealed a military report titled "Non-Lethal Weapons: Terms and References." There were a total of 21 acoustic weapons listed, in various stages of development, including the Infrasound ("Very low-frequency sound which can travel long distances and easily penetrate most buildings and vehicles...biophysical effects: nausea, loss of bowels, disorientation, vomiting, potential internal organ damage or death may occur. Superior to ultrasound..." [cite book
last =Ronson
first =Jon
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title =The Men Who Stare at Goats
publisher =Simon & Schuster
date =2005
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pages =259
url =http://www.jonronson.com/goats_04.html
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isbn =0743241924


The entire concept of less-lethal weapons is to minimize civilian casualties. Although rioters are occasionally killed by these weapons, fatalities are rare and usually accidental. Typical causes of death from non-lethal weapons include misplaced or ricocheting shots, as well as insufficient training on the part of the user.

As different parts of the body differ in vulnerability, and because people vary in weight and fitness, any weapon powerful enough to incapacitate is likely to be capable of killing under certain circumstances. Less lethal ammunition can cause contusions, abrasions, broken ribs, concussions, loss of eyes, superficial organ damage, serious skin lacerations, massive skull fractures, rupture of the heart or kidney, fragmentation of the liver, hemorrhages, and death. Medical assistance should be contacted immediately after an actual deployment of a less lethal munition even if no physical injuries appear on subject or subjects. Thus "non-lethal force" does have some risk of causing death: in this context "non-lethal" only means "not "intended" to kill". For this reason, two new terms, "less than lethal" and particularly "less-lethal", were coined and are now being used in place of "non-lethal" by many weapons manufacturers and law enforcement agencies (and even those who oppose their common use in riot control). This meaning emphasizes that they tend to kill or injure far fewer targets than traditional weapons, which primarily incapacitate by killing or maiming.

Weapons not designed as lethal instruments can, nevertheless, prove fatal. An estimate by the International Association of Chiefs of Police suggested at least 113 pepper spray related fatalities had occurred in the United States, mostly from positional asphyxia, which is caused by airway-restrictive immobilizing holds. Such holds can be exacerbated by the use of pepper spray and the resulting airway inflammation.

Both pepper spray and electroshock weapons have been occasionally misused in so-called 'pain compliance' techniques against people attempting to practice nonviolent civil disobedience. For instance, pepper spray has been swabbed directly into the eyes of protesters who were being held immobile with their eyelids forcibly pulled back. [ [http://www.nopepperspray.org "No Pepper Spray on Nonviolent Protesters!] , "Lundberg v. County of Humboldt"] ] In at least one case, notwithstanding manufacturer's warnings of the danger of such use, a judge has upheld the use of such method.Fact|date=November 2007 Amnesty International in 1997 released a report titled "USA: Police use of pepper spray is tantamount to torture."

Several groups maintain there is great room for improvement in non-lethal weapons and procedures for their use. Claims for the relative safety of such weapons are usually contingent on their being used "properly." For example, the rubber bullets developed during the 1960s were supposed to be fired at the ground and hit the target only after ricochet.Fact|date=February 2007 In practice they were often fired directly at human targets and caused serious injury.

The use of chemical weapons such as tear gas (CS) and pepper spray (OC) has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism due to studies showing serious long term side effects. One indication is that many police forces are no longer exposing their members to the chemicals during training, leading to their increasing use against combative subjects by "unempathetic" or "apathetic" officers. Another is that tear gas and pepper spray are banned in warfare under the Biological and Chemical Weapons Convention. This argument is similar to those levied by gun control advocates who condemn the commercial availability of hollow-point bullets, banned in wartime by the Hague Convention

Less-lethal force in the news

Victoria Snelgrove was accidentally killed by police near Fenway Park by a pepper spray projectile fired from an FN 303 classified as a less-lethal weapon – which hit her in her eye causing her to bleed excessively. Following this incident several police forces including Seattle's have temporarily discontinued use of this weapon until after the results of the investigation are published.

There have been accusations that the use of (inflammable) CS gas canisters during the Waco siege contributed to the fire that killed many Branch Davidians Fact|date=February 2007.

Journalist Ruben Salazar was killed in Los Angeles by an errant CS gas canister during the Chicano riots.

Sticky foam was tried by the U.S. Marine Corps in the peacekeeping Operation United Shield in 1995 with some success, but as a result various complications in its field use were also discovered. [cite book
last =Scott
first =Steven H.
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title =Sticky foam as a less-than-lethal technology
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volume =2934
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publisher =SPIE
location =Sandia National Laboratories
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id =1997SPIE.2934...96S
pages =96-103
quote ="...describes these recent developments of sticky foam for non-lethal uses and some of the lessons learned from scenario and application testing."

New Claims

Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute in Virginia states that: “The relevant [electromagnetic weapon] technology is well within the grasp of some countries and transnational terrorist groups," and further states that U.S. hardware is susceptible to microwave and other directed-energy weapons. [Inside the Pentagon; Cebrowski calls for cultural changes; DEFENSE OFFICIALS URGE COMMON FRAMEWORK FOR PRECISION ATTACKS; April 3, 2003 [] ]

Suitable materials and tools to create electromagnetic weapons are commonly available. "The threat of electromagnetic bomb proliferation is very real." [The Electromagnetic Bomb - a Weapon of Mass Destruction [] ]

In the United States of America, the University of Texas-Austin Institute for Advanced Technology (IAT) conducts basic research to advance electrodynamics and hypervelocity physics related to electromagnetic weapons. [Exploiting Technical Opportunities to Capture Advanced Capabilities for Our Soldiers; Army AL&T; 2007 Oct-Dec; Dr. Reed Skaggs [http://asc.army.mil/docs/pubs/alt/2007/4_OctNovDec/articles/16_Exploiting_Technical_Opportunities_to_Capture_Advanced_Capabilities_for_Our_Soldiers_200710.pdf] ] Generally considered 'non-lethal weapons', electromagnetic weaponry do however pose health threats to humans. In fact, "non-lethal weapons can sometimes be deadly."Air University Research Template: "NON-LETHAL WEAPONS: SETTING OUR PHASERS ON STUN? Potential Strategic Blessings and Curses of Non-Lethal Weapons on the Battlefield"; Erik L. Nutley, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF; August 2003; Occasional Paper No. 34; Center for Strategy and Technology; Air War College; Air University; Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama; PG12 [,+electromagnetic+weaponry+poses+health+threats+to+humans&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=us] ]

Department of Defense policy explicitly states that non-lethal weapons "shall not be required to have a zero probability of producing fatalities or permanent injuries."Department of Defense; DIRECTIVE; NUMBER 3000.3; July 9, 1996; Certified Current as of November 21, 2003; ASD(SO/LIC); SUBJECT: Policy for Non-Lethal Weapons; References: (a) Title 10, United States Code; (b) DoD Directive TS-3600.1, "Information Warfare (U)," December 21, 1992; PG. 3 [] ] Although a Human Effects Advisory Panel was established in 1998 to provide independent assessment on human effects, data, and models for the use of 'non-lethal weapons' on the general population, [Human Effects Advisory Panel Program; presented to: NDIANon-Lethal Defense IV [] ] the TECOM Technology Symposium in 1997 concluded on non-lethal weapons, “Determining the target effects on personnel is the greatest challenge to the testing community,” primarily because "the potential of injury and death severely limits human tests." However, "directed energy weapons that target the central nervous system and cause neurophysiological disorders may violate the Certain Conventional Weapons Convention of 1980. And weapons that go beyond non-lethal intentions and cause “superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering” could violate the Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1977." [Non-Lethal Weaponry: From Tactical to Strategic Applications; Colonel Dennis B. Herbert, USMC (Ret.), program developer, Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies at Pennsylvania State University; pg. 4 [] ]

Some common bio-effects of electromagnetic or non-lethal weapons include affects to the human central nervous system resulting in physical pain, difficulty breathing, vertigo, nausea, disorientation, or other systemic discomfort. Interference with breathing poses the most significant, potentially lethal results. Light and repetitive visual signals can induce epileptic seizures. Vection and motion sickness can also occur. Cavitation, which affects gas nuclei in human tissue, and heating can result from exposure to ultrasound and can cause damage to tissue and organs. Studies have found that exposure to high intensity ultrasound at frequencies from 700 kHz to 3.6 MHz can cause lung and intestinal damage in mice. Heart rate patterns following vibroacoustic stimulation has resulted in serious negative consequences such as arterial flutter and bradycardia. Researchers have concluded that generating pain through the auditory system using high intensity sound resulted in a high risk of permanent hearing damage. Organizations in a research program which included the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory (Groton, Connecticut), Navy Experimental Diving Unit (Panama City, Florida), SCC San Diego, Navy Medical Research and Development Command (Bethesda, Maryland), Underwater Sound Reference Detachment of Naval Undersea Warfare Center (Orlando, Florida), Applied Research Laboratories: University of Texas at Austin, Applied Physics Laboratory: University of Washington, Institute for Sensory Research: Syracuse University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, Boston University, University of Vermont, Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Rochester, University of Minnesota, University of Illinois, Loyola University, and the State University of New York at Buffalo, involved high intensity audible sound experiments on human subjects. The extra-aural (unrelated to hearing) bioeffects on various internal organs and the central nervous system included auditory shifts, vibrotactile sensitivity change, muscle contraction, cardiovascular function change, central nervous system effects, vestibular (inner ear) effects, and chest wall/lung tissue effects. Researchers found that low frequency sonar exposure could result in significant cavitations, hypothermia, and tissue shearing. No follow on experiments were recommended. Tests performed on mice show the threshold for both lung and liver damage occurs at about 184 dB. Damage increases rapidly as intensity is increased. Noise-induced neurologic disturbances in humans exposed to continuous low frequency tones for durations longer than 15 minutes involved development of immediate and long term problems affecting brain tissue. The symptoms resembled those of individuals who had suffered minor head injuries. One theory for a causal mechanism is that the prolonged sound exposure resulted in enough mechanical strain to brain tissue to induce an encephalopathy. [“Non-Lethal Swimmer Neutralization Study”; Applied Research Laboratories; The University of Texas at Austin; G2 Software Systems, Inc., San Diego; TECHNICAL DOCUMENT 3138; May 2002 [] ] “Project Pandora” conducted by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, WRAIR, included externally induced auditory input from pulsed microwave audiograms of words or oral sounds which create the effect of hearing voices that are not a part of the recipients own thought processes. Microwave pulses can also affect the epidermis (skin) and dermis, the thick sensitive layer of skin and connective tissue beneath the epidermis that contains blood, lymph vessels, sweat glands, and nerve endings, generating a burn from as far as 700 yards. ["Non-Lethal Weapons - Just Short of a Miracle"; by Hwaa Irfan; 06/19/2002; Health & Science; Islam Online] Directed energy weapons such as Boeing’s Airborne Laser which can be mounted on a 747 jet is able to burn the skin off enemy missiles. [”Light Warfare”; by Matthew Swibel; 04.23.07; Forbes.com [http://www.forbes.com/businessinthebeltway/forbes/2007/0423/042.html] ]

During the Gulf War, electromagnetic weapons, including high power microwaves were used to disrupt and destroy the enemy's electronic systems and may have been used for other effects. Types and magnitudes of exposure to electromagnetic fields is unknown. [U.S. Senate - Committee on Veterans Affairs: Hearings - Gulf War Illnesses; Testimony to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee; Meryl Nass, MD, Director of Pulmonary Rehabilitation, Mount Desert Island Hospital Bar Harbor, Maine; September 25, 2007 [] ]

A Patent is pending for a non-lethal spread projectile suitable for firing from a shotgun that maintains a ballistic shape until impact thus allowing for accurate use a considerable distance. Reference US Patent application number 12/150,739 dated 4/30/2008.

ee also

* Electromagnetic Weapon
* Directed Energy Weapons
* Microwave Weapons
* Laser applications
* High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program
* Incapacitant
* Electroshock weapon
* Sticky foam
* Sonic weaponry
* Long range acoustic device
* Non-lethal rounds
* Active Denial System
* Dazzler (weapon)
* MEDUSA (weapon)


External links

* [http://www.bradford.ac.uk/acad/nlw Bradford Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project (BNLWRP)] , University of Bradford, UK.
* [http://www.sunshine-project.org/incapacitants The Sunshine Project, 'Non-Lethal' Incapacitating (Bio)Chemical Weapons (website)]
* [http://www.tau.ac.il/jcss/sa/v4n1p3.html Ro'i Ben-Horin, "Non-Lethal Weapons Theory, Practice, and what Lies Between", Strategic Assessment, Volume 3, No. 4, April 2001]
* [http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/05/340075.shtml Pharaoh's Army] , documentary about less-lethal weapons
* [http://cryptome.org/stoa-atpc.htm The European Parliament Directorate General for Research, The STOA - Scientific and Technological Options. An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control]
* [http://www.homelandsecurity.org/snapshots/newsletter/2007-07.htm#sick LED Incapacitator]
* [http://wstiac.alionscience.com/cgi-wstiac/search.cgi?query=non-lethal WSTIAC, Weapon Systems library]

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