May 27, 2010

Toronto G20 to use Sonic Stun Guns

POLITICS/TECHNOLOGY - When the 20 heads of state from the G20 nations (and 5 guests from 5 additional countries) arrive in Toronto on June 26th they will be protected by a new weapon in the police arsenal. The LRAD (Long Range Accoustic Device) Sonic Stun Gun causes people to involuntarily reach for their ears as its decibels reach a range which becomes painful to human hearing.

Indeed long term use can cause permanent hearing damage. The weapon was originally developed and designed by the U.S. Navy to be used against submarines and similar threats but has found new uses in crowd control because it can be aimed to deliver a cone of sound at specific targets in the crowd.

Toronto has purchased a total of four such devices. Three handheld LRADs capable of reaching 135 decibels, which surpasses the pain threshold of 110 to 120. Plus one larger van mounted LRAD that can generate 143 decibels. (For reference conversation is 60 decibels, a 737 Airliner is 80, a power mower is 100, 120 is a nearby lightning crack, 140 is a shotgun blast going by your ear and causes permanent damage.)

Toronto police say they will only be using it for short bursts of sound, unlike Pittsburgh police who last year used the weapons continuously during the 2009 G20 summit.

Remember Toronto police are the same police who continue to use Tasers improperly, despite their own omission that Tasers can kill when used improperly. They have a history of saying they won't do something and then go ahead and do it anyway.

(I pity the poor protestors who are too dumb to bring something to protect their ears. If they're planning on confronting police a quality set of ear muffs would be wise.)

The legality of a device that can cause permanent hearing damage being used on crowds of people including children and babies has yet to be determined. Even against a rowdy crowd of young men it seems unethical.

And what about the poor people who happen to live or work nearby? Who wants their baby woken up by that annoying high pitched sound and then having to get the baby back to sleep. Or the poor guy in his office just trying to make a living down the street? Seeing as even the small hand held LRADs are louder than a lightning strike that annoying sound will be heard miles and miles away.

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