Great News: North Dakota Legalises The Use Of Armed Drones By Police

On September 10, 2015 by Tim Newman

North Dakota - Armed Drones

You would have thought that a country with a police force that’s forever in the news for killing or maiming innocent people might want to keep a low profile as far as new weapons were concerned. No sir, not America.

You could be forgiven for imagining that a country constantly in the media for starting wars and selling guns to baddies might want to chill out on the public pimping of arms? No sir, not America.

Recently, the state of North Dakota legalised the use of armed drones against its own people. It’s only legal for the drones to be armed with non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray, tear gas, tasers and rubber bullets. That’s kind of a relief, but rubber bullets can still be lethal, and none of those things are particularly nice are they? In fact, tasers have killed at least 39 people in America so far this year, according to the Guardian, so to call them non-lethal is pushing it a bit.

North Dakota - Armed Drones Non Lethal Force

People in charge of weapons make mistakes, they’re human after all, so how wrong could a remotely controlled robot get it? I would presume very wrong. Maybe I’m being negative here, but even if there is just a small chance that a drone could go AWOL and unload its pepper spray on a school playground, we should think twice.

You might remember TGI Friday’s “mistletoe drone” incident in New York, December 2014? Well, it cut off a small part of a woman’s nose on its maiden flight. Who cares though, hey? America needs to defend itself against black people terrorists after all.

Everyone knows that someone aiming their weapon from such distance is removed from the situation, not just physically, but emotionally. It’s a lot easier to squeeze the trigger when you’re looking at a screen rather than the whites of a person’s eyes.

I don’t think the American police force need killing people to be any easier for them. They are doing just fine (they killed 1,146 in 2016 [that’s more than three a day – one every 8 hours].

Drone Weapons North Dakota

The best bit about this new advancement in state militarisation is that it actually happened by mistake. The guy who is to blame for all of this (well, actually, we can’t fully blame him) is Republican state representative Rick Becker.

Becker’s original intention was to prevent law enforcement officials from using unmanned aerial vehicles from conducting surveillance on private property without a warrant. That doesn’t sound so unreasonable, does it? So what went so very, very wrong?

The original draft of the House Bill 1328 said:

“A state agency may not authorize the use of, including granting a permit to use, an unmanned aircraft armed with any lethal or non-lethal weapons, including firearms, pepper spray, bean bag guns, mace, and sound-based weapons.”

However, to get the bill through, Becker had to compromise on the weapons part. He managed to get the bit he wanted i.e. the police need a warrant to search your property with a drone, but unfortunately, to get that minor win, he had to allow them to come replete with optional tasers. This from Becker:

“I submitted with prohibition of any weapons. The law enforcement lobby offered an amendment and said that if the amendments were added, they would not oppose. The committee accepted amendments and I didn’t fight them because I wanted the bill to pass at least to require warrants. The law says that law enforcement can’t use drones weaponized with lethal weapons.”

Don’t worry though, Mr Becker is going to try to amend the bill in 2 years time. Great news, as I said. It’s not often a bill is passed that is pro-privacy and pro-violence is it?

North Dakota Legalises Weaponized Drones

In reality, the likelihood of armed drones getting used in North Dakota is pretty slim, but the fact that, almost by mistake, something quite so sinister can become legal shows just how ridiculously backwards Western policy making can be. And, if there’s a loophole to be used, you know someone somewhere is going to exploit it.

Maybe I’m being a little paranoid, but it just so happens that North Dakota hosts America’s only Federal Aviation Administration-approved drone testing site that can fly both during the day and at night. Just sayin’.

The ARS Technica website interviewed a guy called Ryan Calo, a law professor and drone expert at the University of Washington. He had this wonderful understatement to add into the mix:

“I hear a lot of ideas about drones, and this is one of the worst.”

Only “one of” the worst ideas, man alive he must hear some crackers. Good luck North Dakota. Oh, and by the way, this is their state motto:

“Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable.”

So that’s a relief.





@media all and (max-width: 228px) { div#darkbackground, div.visiblebox { display: none; } }