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Police to trial Taser guns in 11 Italian cities

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Police to trial Taser guns in 11 Italian cities
Police forces in more than 100 countries currently use Tasers. Photo: Guillaume Souvant/AFP
12:59 CEST+02:00
Police in 11 cities across Italy are to be given Tasers for the first time to test whether the electrical stun guns can help protect officers.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Wednesday approved the trial of a limited number of Tasers in Milan, Turin, Bologna, Florence, Padua, Reggio Emilia, Naples, Caserta, Catania, Brindisi and Palermo. They will be issued to members of all three police forces that patrol Italy's streets – the State Police, military Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza financial crime force – with officers given special training in the stun guns' use.

Salvini called the devices "a non-lethal weapon of dissuasion" and said they would act as a deterrent, reducing risks to officers' personal safety. 

Italy has considered testing Tasers before, though not without controversy. A previous government first proposed a police trial in 2014, but was forced to promise precautions in response to concerns for public safety. The scheme was slow to get off the ground and, four years on, has yet to be rolled out.

Attention returned to the issue last month when a policeman in Genoa shot dead a man who had stabbed one of his colleagues, prompting the head of Italy's police force to announce that officers would soon be armed with Tasers to help prevent lethal use of force.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about gun laws and ownership in Italy


Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

According to chief of police Franco Gabrielli, the model chosen for use by Italian officers is the Taser X2 "Defender", which gives a shock of several thousand volts for up to five seconds at a time from up to seven metres away, and has a second cartridge to allow for two shots in quick succession. The model is already used by law enforcement in the US, Canada, England, Wales and elsewhere.

Military police at the Vatican also carry Tasers, having been issued them for the first time last month.

Taser guns cause temporary paralysis by using an electrical charge that disrupts signals to the brain. While they benefit police, critics argue that they are unsafe and have in some cases caused injury and even death. The United Nations Committee Against Torture has declared them a potentially deadly form of torture.

Salvini and his League party have long argued for a tougher approach to law and order, including allowing individuals to shoot anyone who enters their home in the name of self-defence, even in the absence of a clear physical threat.

Yet the Five Star Movement, which governs Italy in coalition with the League, formerly opposed the use of Tasers by police, arguing that money should be spent on giving police officers a pay rise instead of "on these toy guns".

READ ALSO: Sharp rise in Italians in favour of loosening gun control


Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP
 

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