GEORGE TOWN - It is shockingly easy to buy a stun gun even if it is illegal to own one without a permit.
They are available at pasar malam and electronics shops in Penang and can be bought for as little as RM40 (S$13).
But while these electroshock weapons are meant for personal defence to incapacitate assailants, criminals are also finding them useful.
On Sunday, robbers immobilised a woman with a stun gun here before stealing her handbag.
A check by The Star on Tuesday revealed just how easy it is to buy the gadget.
Just an hour of enquiries led to information about a wholesaler in George Town's heritage enclave.
A reporter and photographer went undercover, one asking to buy a stun gun for his girlfriend and another posing as a night market trader wanting to buy in bulk.
It was needless pretence. The wholesaler led the team to a shelf near the shop's entrance with about 50 boxes of stun guns in plain sight.
"I have two models, 800 Type is RM40 and 669 Type is RM50. If you only buy one, I give RM1 discount. If you buy a dozen, I give half price," the wholesaler said.
Both models are about the size of a small handphone and fit snugly in the palm. They have LED light bulbs so they double up as a flashlight.
Their boxes do not show any manufacturer's details beyond "Made in China".
Voltage information that came with both models was confusing. The information slips in the boxes state that the stun guns will deliver jolts of 5.5 million volts but on the boxes, the voltages are stated as 500,000 to 1.8 million volts.
The slips add that the weapons should not be used on children, people with heart problems or on any "vital" parts of the body.
"When you are struck with a stun gun, all your muscles convulse and become useless."
A dog trainer here, who declined to be named, confessed that he bought one for dog obedience training last year.
"I tried it on my leg for a split second and got a good jolt. To immobilise people, I think you will need to shock them for several seconds at the neck or chest," the trainer said.
Unlike tasers, which fire electrode projectiles with connecting wires, stun guns must be pressed against the target.
Internet literature on stun gun use says the best "stun locations" are the shoulders, hips, thighs, buttocks and below the rib cage.
When the stun gun's electrodes are pressed against a person, it delivers an electric shock to the body that affects the nervous system, causing muscle spasms, loss of balance and disorientation.
However, a retired soldier in Shah Alam, who said he bought five stun guns a few years ago, felt that they were not practical as personal defence weapons.
"I bought five for RM90 each for my wife and children. If we forget about them for two months or so, the batteries lose their charge. In less than a year, the batteries died and could not be charged any more," he said.
In Petaling Jaya, police said selling and possessing stun guns and tasers without a licence was illegal under the Arms Act 1960.
Federal CID deputy director Deputy Comm Datuk Amar Singh said Section 11 of the Act states that no person, except for a licensed dealer or repairer, should sell or transfer any arms or ammunition.
"The Act also explains that no one shall knowingly accept any delivery of arms or ammunition unless he has a valid licence for such a transaction," he told The Star yesterday.
"Anyone found guilty of violating this Act can be imprisoned for up to two years or fined not more than RM2,000 or both."