Imagine an effective ranged stun gun that renders an opponent unconscious is built in the near future and is easily produced. It works like this:
- for most people if shot they will be knocked unconscious for anywhere between 2 hours and 18 hours, depending on power level of the gun
- It can harm or kill certain vulnerable people, the elderly, extremely infirm, those with certain rarer heart conditions etc. However, it is rare that it is lethal (they're far safer then modern stun weapons), and generally anyone that faces lethal danger is obviously infirm so someone likely knows if their firing on someone who will be in danger.
- Proper medical treatment for those who have a bad reaction to stun blast will usually ensure they recover with little if any long term harm so long as they get treatment within the next 30 minutes. Proper stun weapon usage involves checking pulse of anyone shot as soon as safe to detect irregular pulse as a sign of a negative reaction.
- Once the stun ends the person will wake up groggy and with a massive headache. Their muscles will be sore as if over used. However, they will recover within a day or so with no permanent harm
- Drugs exist to minimize the pain if administered before or immediately after revival, but discomfort always occurs.
- Modern medicine can detect that someone was stunned within the last day. If someone dies while stunned an autopsy usually can detect that they had been recently stunned if the body is well preserved.
- Stun guns can be detected by high-energy sensors. So the equivalent of metal detectors can be used to scan for them before someone enters a building.
- Stun guns have a range comparable to modern pistols or slightly lower; however, in the future pistol ranges are also slightly longer, meaning that pistols still out distance stun weapons by a bit. However effective accuracy ranges are nearly the same for most people, since accuracy has more to do with human skill in aiming then the weapons range. Rifles have a significant range advantage over stun guns.
- stun rifles have been built but they give only slightly increased range and so are rarely used over stun-pistols; the lack of maneuverability of a longer rifle relative to a pistol counteracts the slight increased range.
- Stun shots do not ricochet or fire through metal objects as well (they tend to 'stun' the first solid object hit) They do have a slight area of effect though, anywhere immediately next to the blast radius may get a lower stun that will knock them out briefly or just numb and leave their body as if their limbs fell asleep if on the outer edge. They tend to short circuit and damage electronics struck by them that aren't protected against such blasts.
- This means that stun guns are generally safer to use in populated areas, they are far less likely to hit anyone other then intended targets.
- It is easy to tell if a gun is lethal or a stun gun. Many people are aware of the low lethality of stun guns. There have been incidents of people in fights charging someone armed with stun guns to try to disarm or hurt them because they weren't afraid of being stunned, leading to arguments that stun guns are less effective at defense because they lack intimidation factor.
- a stun gun is relatively quiet weapons. While it makes a distinctive sound that someone near by may recognize it is not nearly as loud or reverberate/echo the way a gunshot does. It's also easy to not place it. However, the shot individual may make a sound when shot (during the half second of surprise before they go unconscious they may respond with a startled response to being shot, depending on how they respond to shock) and when he falls also
- In terms of defenses a thick plastic(or other non-conductive substance) vest can partially protect against stunner fire by avoiding direct absorbing the blast. but they would still feel the effect of being close to the radius of the blast, either briefly incapacitated or simply left numb and woozy depending on power of the stunner that hit them. I imagine this can be built into Kevlar vests to get a two for one protection, but the vests would restrict movement a little more then modern vests, due to the need for thickness. Multiple shots to the vest could still incapacitate a cop, as could absorbing most of the blast to unprotected areas like legs or head.
Obviously these weapons are less lethal then a gun, and presumably some places that make conceal carry of a gun illegal will allow stun guns. However, it can be quite painful to be shot, so they are still an assault. Furthermore, once someone is stunned it's relatively easy to kill them at leisure if someone chooses to do so, so criminals can still use them as effectively-lethal weapons if they choose to.
I'm wondering how will societies respond in regulating all weapons, both the stun variety and regular guns with the presence of stun guns. When will stun guns be allowed and when are they forbidden, is a carry permit allowed, and when is it legal to shoot someone (ie when are they considered a credible enough threat that a painful but safe blow to remove the threat is allowed).
I imagine the owning and use of regular guns may be further restricted, as stun guns seem to fit many of the justifications for a regular pistol (for defense) making some feel that there is no need for the more lethal alternative. What effect will these have on regular lethal gun ownership and use?
Since different parts of the world have different policy on gun use I would appreciate answers that consider these different policies. What will the rules be in countries/states that currently have more lax gun laws, what will they be in places with strict laws etc.
This question is primarily focused on how the rules of ownership and use effect civilians, and possible bodyguards, hunters and similar. I will post a different question for policy and military use. I'm trying to set the ground rules for weapon use in this world. Any interesting social ramification I would love to know as fodder for follow up question as well if anyone wishes to leave a comment about them.
edit: since everyone asks stun guns are quite effective compared to tasers. Their range is much longer then a taser, they are more effective at incapacitating an opponent, tasers can misfire easily, and do it much faster, it takes time for an opponent to go down to a taser and during that time the officer has to stand in the open waiting for it to work. They are less lethal. Most important, tasers can be fired only once, stun guns can manage dozens of shots quickly after each other, so you can fire even if your not certain to hit someone or be used to take out more then on assailant at a time.
In short, unless your an idiot you don't try to use a taser in a gun fight. You can use a stun gun in a gun fight, with only a slight disadvantage compared to a gun (slightly lower effective range, can't shot through objects to hit someone behind as well), but your stun shot is more likely to take someone out immediately if hit compared to a bullet and can be partially effective if you hit very close to them without hitting them.