ADS Ray Gun – Update 2

Welcome to my second research update!

The second half of my research was spent trying to discern the pros and cons of non-lethal weapon proliferation, specifically regarding ADS, the ray gun that leaves no trace and that none can withstand.

I went about gathering information the same way as I had when I was just trying to understand what ADS was and how it worked compared to other non-lethal weapons; I spent hours reading scholarly articles and military reports. However, in the data collection process I stumbled across a different question that I hadn’t considered originally but found very thought-provoking. Sjef Orbons (2010, p. 81) said in his article that the ethicality of “the intentional use of NLWs against non-combatants” should be questioned. This stopped me in my tracks and made me reconsider what NLWs really were. While the word “weapon” is included in the name (“non-lethal weapons”), because their intention/primary function is to NOT kill, I hadn’t considered them as weapons when I conceptualized them. Curious, I googled the definition of the word “weapon” and the Oxford dictionary offered this as the primary definition: “A thing designed or used for inflicting bodily harm or physical damage”. It didn’t specify that weapons had to be made with the intent to kill (a connection my brain had made), and as I thought about the various NLWs I had researched, I realized that most of them were designed to cause enough harm to incapacitate a target, but harm nonetheless. But the ADS didn’t fill this definition of a weapon because it left no physical traces or evidence of harm; the painful sensation was just that, a sensation. So I looked at Oxford’s secondary definition which defines a “weapon” as “a means of gaining an advantage or defending oneself in a conflict or contest.” As broad of a definition as it was, this one could be stretched to include far more than just ADS.

Not only did this create a need for me to reevaluate my definition of “weapons,” but it made me wonder who the intended targets of NLWs were. Do NLWs exist just to make sure that if you accidentally shoot a civilian they don’t die so that you don’t get in trouble, or is the goal to actually decrease death across the board (to injure but not kill your enemies)?

When I took on this project, I thought I would just be comparing statistics or other hard facts to determine whether NLWs like ADS should be pursued and proliferated or not. I definitely did not expect my project to get so ethical/philosophical, but here we are. (I guess this is what happens when you follow the research rabbit hole). Though I didn’t seek these questions out, I’m glad I stumbled upon them as I think answering them will be instrumental in increasing my overall understanding on the topic. As I wrap up my research, I will continue looking for pros and cons while holding these deeper ethical considerations in mind. 



McKechnie, D. B. (2011). Don’t Daze, Phase, or Lase Me, Bro! Fourth Amendment Excessive-Force Claims, Future Nonlethal Weapons, and Why Requiring an Injury Cannot Withstand a Constitutional or Practical Challenge. Kansas Law Review, 60. doi:10.17161/1808.20203

Oakes, A. & Smith, D. (2013). The Active Denial System Obstacles and Promise. Project on International Peace and Security Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations, 1-29.

Orbons, Sjef. (2010). Do Non-Lethal Capabilities License to ‘Silence’? Journal of Military Ethics, 9(1), 78-99. doi:10.1080/15027570903353828

Weapon [Def. 1]. (n.d.). Oxford Dictionary Online. In Oxford. Retrieved August 12, 2018, from

Weapon [Def. 2]. (n.d.). Oxford Dictionary Online. In Oxford. Retrieved August 12, 2018, from