North Dakota has become the first state in the US to allow its police to fly drones armed with tasers, tear gas, rubber bullets and other ‘non-lethal weapons’ following the passing of Bill 1328, reported the Daily Beast.
The original draft of the bill, which was proposed by Republican state representative Rick Becker, required police to obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to use a drone to search for criminal evidence. It also intended to ban police in the state from adding any weapons to their drones.
However, a lobbyist for the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association, Bruce Burkett, was allowed by the state house committee to amend the bill so it would only ban lethal weapons from being added. This meant that ‘non-lethal’ weapons such as rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and tasers are now permitted on police drones.
Speaking about the amended bill at a hearing, Becker said: “This is one I’m not in full agreement with. I wish it was any weapon. In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: Drones should not be weaponized. Period.”
The Daily Beast points out that even ‘less than lethal’ weapons have been known to kill. According to Mic, over 500 people were killed by US police using stun guns between 2001 and 2013. Rubber bullets and tear gas have also been responsible for maiming and killing people across the world.
Becker said he worries about the depersonalization and dehumanizing effect that comes from firing a drone remotely, similar to what US air force drone operators can experience when discharging weapons from thousands of miles away. “When you’re not on the ground, and you’re making decisions, you’re sort of separate,” Becker said in March.
North Dakota is the only area out of six US commercial drone test sites where the FAA allows the devices to be flown up to 1,200 feet above the entire state and permits flights at night.