Homeless in Vancouver: You may get a charge out of this cane my friend found

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      The Dumpster-dived walking cane that a homeless friend showed off Friday morning (July 19) may be one of the shockingest things I’ve seen come out of the garbage of Fairview.

      That’s because it’s not just a cane, it’s a “Zap Cane“—fitted with a one million volt stun device”, according to its U.S. distributor.

      That's Personal Security (and/or Defense) Products of Little Rock, Arkansas, providers of other fine mobility aids, such as “Zap Blast Stun Knuckles”.

      Ready, steady—Zap!

      "Shock up to 500 times on a simple charge"—a frame from a Zap Cane advertising video.
      Personal Security Products

      Under the exhortation: “Steady yourself, light your way and be ready to protect yourself…”, PSP lists some of the Zap Cane’s main features.

      It is adjustable from 81 to 91 centimetres (32 to 36 inches), which supports up to 113 kilograms (250 pounds); is fitted with an ultra-bright flashlight; uses a built-in rechargeable nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery; and comes complete with a wall charger and a handy carrying case.

      In a linked YouTube video, the Zap Cane’s “stun gun” is advertised as delivering up to 500 shocks on a full charge.

      Once a switch on top of the handle has been set to arm the cane, the press of a button on the underside of the handle sends a million volt jolt of current arcing across 14 metal electrodes evenly spaced along maybe a third of a metre on the ferrule end of the cane’s plastic shaft.

      There are videos on YouTube (like this one) that show the self-administered effects of one million volt stun batons. These range from flinching to actual muscle convulsion, depending how squarely the current is administered.

      However, at the press of a button, not so much as a spark came off the dumpster-dived Zap Cane’s “TASER” (as my homeless peer referred to the stun device fitted in the shaft).

      He optimistically assumed that the built-in Ni-MH battery simply needed to be charged up.

      At the same time, though, the 30-lumem LED flashlight fitted into the the handle of the cane did work, meaning that it ran off a separate, replaceable battery, probably also fitted into the handle.

      Shockingly, some people think these are legal in Canada

      A closer look at the electrodes ringing the bottom of the Zap Cane.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Many online sources say that conductive energy weapons, a.k.a. stun guns, are only illegal in Canada if they are shorter than 480 millimetres (18.89 inches). This argues that stun batons (and Zap Canes) 480 millimetres and longer are legal in Canada.

      Almost all of the sources saying this are companies or individuals with an interest in promoting the personal ownership of firearms—electrical or otherwise.

      However, this appears to be a misinterpretation, based on Part 3.6 of the list of prohibited firearms, in the Canadian Criminal Code’s Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms et al, which reads:

      6 Any device that is designed to be capable of injuring, immobilizing or incapacitating a person or an animal by discharging an electrical charge produced by means of the amplification or accumulation of the electrical current generated by a battery, where the device is designed or altered so that the electrical charge may be discharged when the device is of a length of less than 480 mm, and any similar device.

      More legal-minded sources on the Internet, however, elaborate that what is legal in Canada are electrical discharge devices 480 millimetres and longer that are designed to incapacitate animals and only animals.

      These devices are commonly called cattle prods, or simply electric prods.

      There seems to be no legal restriction on the use of electric prods on cattle, for instance, but there are best practices recommended by the voluntary Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle, put out by the National Farm Animal Care Council, a Canadian stakeholder NGO.

      Intended to reduce needless harm and suffering to food animals already suffering under a sentence of death, the advice of the code includes:

      • Electric prods must only be used to assist movement of cattle when animal or human safety is at risk or as a last resort…
      • Do not use electric prods repeatedly on the same animal.
      • Do not use electric prods on the genitals, face, udder or anal areas.

      There are no Canadian guidelines allowing the use of electric prods on people.

      It may legal in Canada to own a Zap Cane and use it to zap animals, but it instantly becomes a crime to own and use, or even try to use, one on a human being.

      I’m reminded of a half-joke, half rule-of-thumb, among homeless people, concerning baseball bats.

      It’s not actually a crime to carry a baseball. But if the police find you walking around in possession of one—you damn well better have a baseball glove to go with it!

      Speaking of the police, I have approached the VPD for legal clarification on possession of Zap Canes and will update this post with any useful response I receive. 

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.

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