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Colorado Town May Let Folks Shoot Down Drones, What Could Go Wrong?
The tiny community of Deer Trail, Colorado, (population 546) is considering passing an ordinance to sell "drone hunting licenses" and offer a bounty for shooting down federally owned unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). But don't worry, they are only joking (except for the guy who introduced the measure -- he says he's completely serious). We aren't sure whether to mock the earnest wingnut paranoia of the idea, or admire the town council's willingness to make a few bucks exploiting that wingnut paranoia with a scheme that they all know is physically impossible, since the law would only allow "hunting" drones with a shotgun. We wish they'd allow small-caliber rifles, too, so we could at least make a catch-.22 joke.
The ordinance was drafted by area man Phillip Steel, who does not like drones or the feds one bit, no sirree. He acknowledges that he's never seen a drone over the town, and told a reporter from Denver's 7News the measure is an expression of resistance:
"This is a very symbolic ordinance. Basically, I do not believe in the idea of a surveillance society, and I believe we are heading that way."
So, yeah, we're down with protesting the surveillance state. Power to the People, man. Of course, this being Wingnut America, the fallback position is to do it with guns. We may not be able to do anything about the Patriot Act or the NSA, but by god we can SHOOT something.
The ordinance draft doesn't include any language to indicate that the town is just funnin':
"The Town of Deer Trail shall issue a reward of $100 to any shooter who presents a valid hunting license and the following identifiable parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle whose markings and configuration are consistent with those used on any similar craft known to be owned or operated by the United States federal government."
We suppose what makes it symbolic is that the measure only applies to federal drones, which are scary and bad, while privately owned UAVs -- expected to be a growth industry and a more serious reason for privacy concerns -- aren't mentioned at all. Not that we shouldn't expect, in the next few years, to hear about people taking potshots at UAVs operated by local police or TV stations, and eventually just blowing away some schlub flying a radio-controlled model plane because they think it's a government spy.
The licenses would not be restricted to town residents, although buyers would have to be over 21 and able to "read and understand English," because America, fuck yeah.
The town council mostly thinks the idea is a terrific, fun way to make a few bucks selling drone-hunting licenses for $25 a pop. Steel -- and remember, he's the serious idealist in this story -- says "They'll sell like hot cakes, and it would be a real drone hunting license ... It could be a huge moneymaker for the town." David Boyd, another member of the town council, also thinks cashing in on rampant paranoia is a nifty idea:
"Even if a tiny percentage of people get online (for a) drone license, that's cool. That's a lot of money to a small town like us,"said Boyd. "Could be known for it as well, which probably might be a mixed blessing, but what the heck? ... I'm good with passing it as long as it's safe."
Sounds plenty safe to us! A license to fire shotguns at aircraft -- what could possibly go wrong?
Town clerk Kim Oldfield sees the potential for Deer Trail to turn the ordinance into a Big Thing that could turn around the town's declining fortunes:
"Possibly hunting drones in a skeet, fun-filled festival. We’re the home of the world’s first rodeo, so we could be home of the world’s first drone hunt."
"If they were to read it for the title alone and not for the novelty and what it really is, it sounds scary, and it sounds super vigilante and frightening," said Oldfield. "The real idea behind it is it’s a potential fun, moneymaker, and it could be really cool for our community and we’ve needed something to bring us together, and this could be it."
Somewhere, an indy film maker just has to be putting together a screenplay and a pitch. " Drone Days! It'll be like Waiting for Guffman, only with shotguns and drones and anti-government hysteria! Can we get Fred Willard?"
The town council will vote on the ordinance in August. If it doesn't go through, there's always the option to legalize shooting down black helicopters with rocket-propelled grenades or shooting census workers if they ask invasive questions about your toilets. Just as long as there's shooting, okay?