Technology

Can Electric Bullets Save Lives?

A non-lethal round that can still incapacitate its target.

By Susan KruglinskiJun 27, 2004 12:00 AM

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“When Amadou Diallo was reaching for his wallet, the police put 40 bullets in him before he hit the ground,” says inventor and munitions expert John LeBourgeois of Technosis, in Moffett Field, California. “I read that and decided there had to be a better way.” 

In New York’s Diallo case, an innocent person died because police mistakenly thought he was pulling out a weapon. If cops could completely incapacitate a person with a single gunshot, LeBourgeois reasoned, they could use lethal force sparingly and still be safe themselves (a mortally wounded person can fire back for many seconds before losing consciousness). So he invented ShockRounds, bullets that fire like normal 9 mm rounds but on impact release a paralyzing 50,000-volt charge—similar to what you would feel grabbing a particularly strong electric fence.

The jolt temporarily shuts down the muscular system and possibly causes momentary unconsciousness. Unlike a Taser gun, which shoots two electrified wires, ShockRounds can stop a person more than 300 feet away. The bullets contain a disk of piezoelectric material that releases electricity on impact; there are no batteries or moving parts. LeBourgeois will soon test the bullets and hopes to make them commercially viable by next year. Bill Johnson, of the National Association of Police Organizations, is cautiously optimistic. “If they’re able to build it as advertised, then certainly this is something that officers would be very much interested in,” he says.

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