Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
It is a truism that most technology is a two-edged sword. Something created with a beneficial use can and (due to human nature) turned into something harmful is the way the scenario usually plays out. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule where the inverse is true and something harmful turns out to have a beneficial application. To illustrate this point, here is the Vortex Gun.
You saw correctly. This is a gun that can fire concentrated blasts of tear gas, pepper spray or any other aerosol agent moving at 90 miles per hour at targets up to 150 feet away. The “smoke rings” are still moving at 60 miles per hour reaching targets over 90 feet away. What possible benefit could come from such a weapon? Let’s look at the non-military application of the weapon before jumping the gun (pun fully intended).
It is an interesting side effect that the charges the smoke rings can serve a beneficial function for fighting fires. The rings can be used to clear smoke from the air because the ionizing charges in the ring causes airborne smoke particles around them to clump together like rain droplets and cling to surfaces. This could be very beneficial to firefighters. Smoke impedes both rescue and fire suppression actions as well is being inherently dangerous as an inhalation risk. Initial results seem to indicate this would be a more efficient way to clear smoke than the existing practice of using exhaust fans. The Vortex Gun is not the only electrically based fire fighting tool on the technological horizon either. DARPA is funding experiments done by the Whitesides Research Group at Harvard University on using electrical fields to suppress fires by changing the shape of the flame to rip it from its fuel source. However, unlike the “fire wand” experiments, the primary design function of the Vortex Gun is as a weapon. Function follows form. The question of “what possible benefit could come from such a weapon” seems to be a boon for firefighting and public safety. But like any technology or science, it isn’t enough to do something just because we as a species can do it. That’s irresponsible. We need to ask and examine the question “Just because we can do a thing, does that mean we should do a thing?”
Does that potential benefit outweigh the risk to personal freedoms like free speech and assembly such a weapon poses? Is this a weapon – or indeed representative of the kind of weapons – that American’s concerned about oppression and the ever steady erosion of civil and human rights in this country should try to keep out of the hands of law enforcement? Is this another “pacifying weapon” like the Taser which could rapidly turn into an abusive and abused method of coercion? Although the articles stress the use of “non-lethal” aerosol agents, how difficult would it be to modify the weapon and/or provide users with appropriate safety gear to make using lethal aerosol agents practical?
These are all valid questions, especially now that the previously discussed “Anti-Protest Bill” – H.R. 347 – was signed into law on March 9, 2012 by President Obama.
What do you think?
~Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger