LETTER: Taser ban important for keeping Columbia safe

Thursday, October 28, 2010 | 2:24 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — What is certain about Tasers and other Conducted Electrical Device weapons is the uncertainty.

Tasers are unreliable. The physical, emotional and psychological effects on people are unpredictable and understudied.

Columbians have been asking questions about Tasers for years now, without satisfactory responses from law enforcement or from the City Council. The burden of proof falls on the City Council and law enforcement to show that these weapons are necessary and that the supposed benefits outweigh the financial costs and health risks. They have failed.

Tasers were purchased without cameras, which would provide videos of Taser incidents. Records of Taser use are not readily available to the public. Tasers do not decrease gun use. We know they are too often used to demand compliance. And we know they decrease trust.

Throughout the campaign, we have talked with people from all walks of life. We know Taser use in our community is everybody's issue. It is relevant to a grandfather with heart disease, a mother-to-be who is barely pregnant, an excited football fan, a teenage athlete, a father who is sending his daughter off to school and a police officer who deserves to have the best and most reliable weapons available.

Tasers are used disproportionately on minorities and on other vulnerable populations; this injustice affects all of us. Regardless of your income level, your race, your profession, your age or where in Columbia you reside, living in a community where police-citizen trust is jeopardized has an impact on you.

We have the responsibility to stop Taser International and other profit-driven corporations that produce these faulty, unsafe weapons. These corporations are manipulating our emotions, profiting from our fears and dividing our communities.

Wanting a safe Columbia is about wanting a safe Columbia for police and for citizens. Because evidence has exposed the unreliability of the weapon, police chiefs and city councils across the country have either opted out of arming law enforcement with Tasers or have pulled Tasers from the officer's tool belt.

We have an historic opportunity and an inherent right to come together and say we don't want unreliable weapons used in our city.

A Taser-free Columbia is a safer Columbia. Join me and fellow voters in voting YES on Proposition 2 Tuesday.

Lily Tinker Fortel lives in Columbia.

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