North Dakota Legalizes Weaponized Drones

North Dakota police are now legally permitted to use tear gas, tasers, sound cannons rubber bullets, and shoot pepper spray because of House Bill 1338, an amended law originally proposed to keep police from using weaponized drones.

Prior to its passage, the bill prevented “lethal” weapons from being equipped to drones. Its original purpose, however, was to keep UAVs from being weaponized at all, and to require a warrant for their operation (the second part is included in the modified version that passed.)


According to The Daily Beast, North Dakota Republican lawmaker and the bill’s architect Rick Becker said, “In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: drones should not be weaponized. Period.” But opposition was met by the state house committee, drone industry lobbyists, and the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act found that the Federal Aviation Administration has documented 401 drone flights, an unusually high number, by North Dakota’s Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department, which was vocal in support of the bill, between 2012 and autumn 2014.


As drones and non-lethal force are often used separately by American police at demonstrations in places like Baltimore, one can reasonably assume that there is a high chance that a UAV would shoot tear gas, rubber bullets, or take similar measures that previously were illegal.


Though the warrant safeguard assuage some civil libertarians, the law appears to be just another militarization measure. 774 Americans have been killed this year by cops, who are increasingly perceived to be militarized, even an “occupying force”. The bill’s definition of a “lethal” weapon is questionable: police have killed 39 Americans with tasers this year, The Guardian has reported.

Necessarily lethal or not, tasing, shooting rubber bullets, and pepper spray are instruments of violence. Slate pointed out this article by Discovery News about how dangerous rubber bullets actually are (it’s enough to raise some doubts about being non-lethal.)


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