America Needs A Manhattan Project To Find Non-Lethal Weapons To Stop School Shooters

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Steve Cormier Information technologies consultant
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As everyone knows by now, 17 people were recently killed in Florida in a school shooting.

The debate is now about guns and mental health and other assorted prevention measures.

What no one has mentioned, as far as I know, is non-lethal self-defense.

We live in a miraculous technological age, yet our debate about how to prevent violence is absurdly primitive.

The simplest and most direct way to stop school shootings would be to make it possible to stop violence quickly without harming anyone.

We need the equivalent of the Manhattan Project — the World War II-era research and development project that produced the atomic bomb — for non-lethal defense. Such a project would examine and develop the many possibilities that would ultimately allow affordable non-lethal defenses to be brought quickly to bear on an attacking source at an American school.

We have air bags in cars so that when violent motion occurs technology immediately deploys to counter that destructive motion.

I believe something similar could be done in situations where a violent source activates.

We need new technology to prevent injuries and fatalities during school shootings.

Consider a swarm of armored drones that quickly deploys to block bullets, for example. Currently, self-driving car sensors evaluate a scene, including the relationship between objects such as cars and pedestrians. It might be possible to use these sensing systems as stationary sentinels in public places. On sensing something like a vehicle harming pedestrians, the unit could activate pop-up tire-shredders or other barriers to stop the attack.

Another possibility might be lasers carried by people that could be flashed into attacker’s eyes.

Or imagine that everyone in a school or public gathering has a non-lethal disabling hand grenade on their belt that can be quickly activated and thrown at a shooter.

I’ve imagined such a grenade in basic fashion. This is a very preliminary design but I’m sure scientists could come up with something far better.

Elements of a non-lethal disabling grenade might include:

Pepper spray or other irritants. These commonly used irritants could quickly overwhelm anyone who wasn’t equipped with some form of protection against them.

Hardening goo. This substance would be a liquid that would quickly gel into a sticky, hardening, binding form on contact with air. When the grenade(s) strike the target, this substance would make movement more difficult and would foul both breathing apparatus or goggles.

Concentrated fecal odor liquid. Humans are immensely susceptible to fecal smell. Scientists have been able to synthesize this smell in concentrated form. A small amount can instantly disable a person, causing immediate vomiting, yet would not pose a danger to anyone who was an innocent bystander (though they might be made very uncomfortable, and there might be some risk to those with heart conditions or other frailties). This idea might sound crazy, but’s no different than using other irritants such as pepper spray and, since it’s synthetic, there would be no biohazard.

Black paint. The perpetrator might opt for goggles and/or a gas mask to prevent irritants from stopping them. This spray of paint would both blind any goggles and foul any gas mask.

The grenade would be powered by a small compressed air canister. It would be initially armed by two mechanisms: being pulled off a tether to which it’s attached (on a person’s belt or maybe attached to a desk in a school) and then the top would be twisted like a jar lid, creating the second level of activation.

The concentration of fire by many individuals using such devices could very quickly disable an attacker. The attacker would, of course, suffer discomfort but their lives would be saved and with such a device.

Alternate delivery devices would be possible — a pellet gun for example.

My idea is just one possibility and I present it only to illustrate what could be done. It should be noted that this or any defensive weapon might be subject to abuse. In schools, pranksters might be tempted to use grenades. We would need strict laws that would harshly punish anyone misusing a defense weapon. Registration of devices to individuals could help identify any malfeasance. Even if someone pulled a prank, however, the result would generally be extreme discomfort rather than permanent harm.

It’s also possible that an attacker might use these weapons to help sow confusion. However, I doubt that the surprise of spraying a group with gunfire would be inferior to first tossing a couple of these grenades then firing. Besides, if I’m willing to kill a bunch of people I’d make my own more devastating device to sow confusion rather than using something weaker that’s only good in concentration.

Personal defensive weapons could also be used in individual attack situations, as pepper spray is used now.

We have tremendous existing and emerging technologies that I believe could be used to save people from attack, without the need for everyone to be carrying lethal force. I also think that people on both sides of the gun issue could get on board with a concerted effort to develop non-lethal defense technologies to protect the public from harm.

Steve Cormier is an information technologies consultant specializing in data/predictive analytics.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.