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The Lawgiver is a fictional weapon used by the Judges in Judge Dredd and related series that appear in the UK comic books 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, as well as the 1995 movie Judge Dredd and the 2012 film Dredd.
The Lawgiver is a handgun featuring semi- and fully automatic fire, manual and automatic focusing and targeting, plus an in-built computer capable of controlling its operation. It fires a range of speciality ammunition. An in-line gunsight shows the view directly down the barrel. A Lawgiver can only be operated by its designated Judge owner, whose palm print is programmed into the gun's memory.
An earlier weapon appeared in the Origins storyline. Though little was known about the gun itself, it was capable of firing standard and armour piercing rounds.
Should an attempt be made by an unauthorised person to use the Lawgiver, it will explode in that person's hand. Recognising that this generally practical safeguard can sometimes impede Judges in the execution of their duties, the Justice Department computers contain instructions on bypassing Lawgiver palm-recognition systems. These instructions can be accessed by senior Judges, but are generally employed only in severe emergencies. Judge Dredd demonstrates this process in the story "Goodnight Kiss" after his partner is killed by Jonni Kiss.
In the story "The Narcos Connection", criminal Nero Narcos sabotaged a new batch of upgraded lawgivers by programming them to self-destruct when used by their authorised users (once they received a radio signal, so the rogue command took effect in all weapons simultaneously). This resulted in large numbers of judges being crippled or killed at the precise moment they were attacked by Narcos's "Assassinator" robots at the beginning of the Second Robot War in 2121.
The gun has a maximum range of up to three miles and has six distinct settings:
Some stories by Judge Dredd creator John Wagner have added a stun bullet, while stories by Gordon Rennie have included a stunner beam (which doesn't always work). An "exorcist" bullet for use against supernatural enemies was developed by Gordon Rennie. These and the six modes of fire listed above are canon. The Judge Dredd audio drama Wanted: Dredd Or Alive has a Tracer bullet, which allows Judges to electronically track what they've shot. One story had a judge fire a marker shell, a round which tags its target with green paint.
Some publications replace the Hi-Ex with the Grenade setting. In addition, the novelisations of David Bishop replaced the Incendiary round with a Gas round, which released a cloud of Stumm gas, the Mega City equivalent of CS or tear gas. Other issues have shown the new Lawgiver to have a limited number of close-range electrical stun attacks capable of incapacitating large numbers of opponents at close range.
In the film Judge Dredd the "Lawgiver Mark II" handgun is a voice-activated handgun with seven different kinds of ammunition. Its ammunition includes standard bullets, rapid fire (all types of ammo), explosive grenade rounds, the "double-whammy" (twin rounds fired simultaneously in different directions), armour piercing rounds and signal flares. It is somewhat visually different from the way it had been depicted in books.
Each individual round fired is tagged with the DNA code of the Judge to whom the weapon belongs, thus making identification of the shooter possible with the recovery of the slugs from a victim.
Instead of exploding when an individual other than a judge picks up the weapon it emits a very powerful, incapacitating (and often deadly) shock until the weapon is dropped.
In the 2012 movie Dredd, a revised version of the Lawgiver II demonstrated seven types of ammunition, which again were voice activated : RAPID (Rapid fire), FMJ (Full Metal Jacket), AP (Armour Piercing), INC (Incendiary), HI-EX (High Explosive), Hotshot, and Stun. Like the comic, if an individual other than a judge attempted to fire the gun, it self-destructed, incapacitating the wielder.
In a special feature of the Dredd DVD, it is revealed that the Lawgiver used in the film uses three separate magazines housing separate kinds of ammunition simultaneously, as opposed to the comics where all kinds of ammunition are fired from one universal magazine. This culminates to a moment in the film where Dredd's Lawgiver runs out of all forms of ammunition except for High Explosive rounds.
In 2000, Australian firearms manufacturer Metal Storm was inspired by Judge Dredd's Lawgiver to create the Variable Lethality Law Enforcement electronic pistol. Like the Lawgiver, the gun is designed to be used only by its designated owner, ensuring that it cannot be fired if lost or stolen. The designated shooter can be identified by palm or fingerprint, numerical code, swipe card or voice recognition. The gun is capable of firing multiple projectiles which can include traditional bullets as well as pesticides, fertilisers, fireworks, fire-retardants and other rapid-delivery packages. The gun also features an electronic voice that tells the shooter which firing mode the gun is in.