Who You Gonna Call? Goop Busters

Sandia National Laboratories, once a thriving center of nuclear weapons design, needs to justify its existence now that the cold war is gone. So its scientists have dreamed up a nonlethal goop weapon to stop rioters and other miscreants. Sandia's high-tech goop is shot out of a fat-barreled gun that's slung over the shoulder a la Ghostbusters. Once slimed, an evil-doer has trouble moving: The stuff turns into a brown taffy on contact.

But will it sell? Police departments are skeptical. Bash a rioter on the head with a nightstick and he falls to the ground. Goop him, and he might keep coming, however slowly. "What good is it," asks New York City Police Dept. spokesman Detective Joseph McConville, "if it doesn't work right away?"

Albuquerque-based Sandia will test the goop gun on volunteers later this year. The funder of the project, the National Institute of Justice, a research arm of the Justice Dept., insists that police will welcome alternatives to more harmful, conventional tools for subduing a suspect: nightsticks, sprays, stun guns, and the like.

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