Sunday, September 13, 2015

Shutting down Iron Man: Conservatives, liberals agree on need for weaponized drone ban

By Eric Boehm

Anyone familiar with science-fiction — from the terrifying Mechanical Hound of Fahrenheit 451 to the sleek war machines of Iron Man 2 — can point to plenty of reasons why drones carrying weapons could be a terrible idea.

Now, some progressive activists and Republican congressmen say the federal government should take steps to stop police from being allowed to weaponize their aerial drones.

Petitions circulating on a number of progressive websites like call on the federal government to ban the use of weapons on drones, after North Dakota became the first state to make it legal for police to do so.

Drones are commonly used by the military for surveillance and assaults, particularly in the Middle East where difficult terrain can hamper the use of conventional military weapons. Activists are concerned drones will filter down from the military to local police, just like heavily armored vehicles and military tactics have.

“We are greatly concerned that armed police drones are just another step to further militarize U.S. police forces,” reads part of the Color Of Change petition. “We cannot allow our already hyper-militarized and unaccountable police forces to be able to remotely use weapons like this.”

The petition asks the Federal Aviation Administration to consider weaponized drones as the agency works on a set of rules to govern the use of non-military drones over American soil.

In Congress, U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, introduced legislation earlier this year to ban the use of weaponized drones, though it would create exemptions for “hunting and animal control.”

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