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A US firm which sells handheld puke-ray weapons for the police and military markets has adopted a novel marketing ploy. For every chunder-gat purchased, the company will donate a small sum to help the families of cops and troops who have been killed in the line of duty.

Laser Energetics of New Jersey announced that its Dazer Laser™ weapons were ready for shipping in June. The company offers a hefty raypistol-format job, the Defender™, or a handier torch/sick-sabre style affair called Guardian™. The weapons' flickering beams, when directed into an opponent's eyes, are said to cause nausea and impaired balance.

Now, to sweeten the deal even further for any police or military purchasing chiefs still undecided, Laser Energetics has pledged that for every Defender bought it will donate $25 (or $15 for a Guardian) to the "Have a Heart - Save a Life™" fund. This worthy organisation, set up by Laser Energetics and the Star Spangled Americans Society ("Ignore politics and embrace patriotism!") "will supply money to charities that provide donations to those families of the fallen brave", according to Laser Energetics.

"We anticipate we will make significant donations in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in the near future," states company CEO Robert D Battius, suggesting that he expects imminent regurge-raygun sales in the tens of thousands.

There's a certain irony here in that the company's hurl-weapons aren't intended to save the lives of American cops or troops, but rather those of their opponents. The vomit beams are supposed to offer a "non lethal" or "less lethal" option for plods or squaddies facing dangerous enemies - less final than firearms, but not as potentially risky as fisticuffs, clubs, the use of comparatively short-ranged and one-shot Taser electroprod guns etc. Better to leave a perp or terrorist groping blindly about with his eyes shut or floundering in a chunky puddle than to shoot, slug, gas or electrify him - that's the thinking.

That would only apply, of course, if the spew-beam tech actually worked. Even then the idea would still have its critics; and as yet it seems reasonable to be sceptical. Similar vom-ray efforts at the Department of Homeland Security have yet to produce a deployable weapon.

Laser Energetics' pledge may of course be just what it seems: an example of sturdy corporate patriotism. But it might also be a desperate attempt to blackmail police or military purchasers into coughing up for a largely ineffective product. ®

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