A whole host of jurisdictional battles could be on the horizon if Colorado town Deer Trail passes its proposed ordinance to issue hunting licenses for drones.
Citing its “sovereign airspace,” the proposal calls drone surveillance and “unlawful attack from a belligerent foreign power” and an “act of war.” In the name of “resistance to tyranny in support of the common defense,” it calls for the town to license residents to shoot down unmanned aerial vehicles under certain conditions, for the small fee of $25.
There are some restrictions, however: drones may only be shot down using shotguns. Nothing with a rifled barrel is allowed. Also, applicants would have to be able to read and understand English.
ABC 7 Denver reports,
Deer Trail resident, Phillip Steel, drafted the ordinance.
“We do not want drones in town,” said Steel. “They fly in town, they get shot down.” . . .
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Congress passed a bill in February mandating the FAA must open national airspace to drones, despite the extensive and unprecedented civil liberties dangers they pose to every American. The FAA, in new rules announced on Monday, made the authorization procedure easier, stating they have ‘streamlined the process’ for ‘public agencies’—which includes local law enforcement—to legally operate drones in U.S. skies.”
Many local agencies already have. You can check EFF’s interactive map. Steel is one of the first to suggest the opposite: local government should not take handouts from the federal government to spy on their citizens, but rater should resist such intrusions on their behalf, and empower them to do so:
State and local governments throughout the country are talking about the fantastic possibilities using unmanned aerial vehicles. . . . It’s time to take a stand against becoming a surveillance society. . . .
Denver 7 quoted him as saying, “Basically, I do not believe in the idea of a surveillance society, and I believe we are heading that way.”
With the FAA estimating there will be 30,000 drones stalking Americans by 2020, the suspicion is not unwarranted.
Deer Trail mayor Frank Fields says he has not decided whether he supports the measure, though as a novelty and potential money-maker for the town, he says it would be fun to have a little “drone fest.”
The ordinance would provide awards for drones shot down: $25 up to $100 in some cases.
Honestly I think that even if the measure passes, it will get struck down by a higher court. Or, if a drone is shot down before then, there will be a federal lawsuit. After all, the FAA claims jurisdiction over all U.S. airspace. So, this could potentially become a major legal issue. We can hope it would anyway, and hope that local rights are upheld, and the surveillance state held in check as much as possible.
But the small town’s ordinance will face many obstacles, beginning, potentially, with the local sheriff. Steel and the mayor both note the ordinance could make the town a lot of money. That’s good. They’ll need it for all of the lawsuits that would likely follow.
But citizen pressure has resulted in changing local policy in the past. EFF notes that, “Shelby County Tennessee sheriff’s office requested two drones as part of a $400,000 Homeland Security grant, the Shelby county commission questioned the Sheriff’s Office on how they would be using the drone and asked them to draw up privacy guidelines. The sheriff’s office promptly withdrew its request for drones.”
We need more pressure like this, with perhaps a little less of the gunslinger image.