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Demonstrators deploy a model of a U.S. drone aircraft at the "Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance" near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Oct. 26, 2013. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst) Demonstrators deploy a model of a U.S. drone aircraft at the "Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance" near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Oct. 26, 2013. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)  

Tiny Colorado town rejects ‘drone-hunting’ ordinance

Residents of tiny Deer Trail, Colo., voted overwhelmingly to reject a proposal to sell “drone-hunting” licenses during the municipal election Wednesday, but the man who proposed the idea in the first place said he’ll take it elsewhere.

“They apparently don’t want it and that’s OK,” Phil Steel told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I’ll take to another town that does and there are a lot of them.”

Steel first proposed his drone-hunting ordinance last year, in protest of new rules for unmanned aircraft being developed by the Federal Aviation Administration. It would have allowed anyone who is at least 18 years old to buy a $25 license to shoot down unmanned aircraft spotted flying over Deer Trail.

The ordinance specified that only shotguns be used to fire on targets and laid out a schedule of bounties to be paid by the town for recovered wings and fuselages.

The proposal heaped attention on sleepy Deer Trail, located about 50 miles east of Denver, and most of it was unwanted. The Colbert Report did a blistering takedown of the proposal and Steel said that the media booked hotels for miles around in the days leading to Wednesday’s vote.

Steel has been selling novelty licenses for months on his website and said he’s made about $25,000. Had the proposal passed, he would have split the revenue with Deer Trail.

Now, he says he’ll look to other towns to make his pitch.

“I’m thinking about some towns in Mesa County, Colo., because the sheriff there is very into the use of drones, so I’d love to oppose him on that,” he said. “There’s a town called Danbury, Texas; they’ve expressed interest in the past and I’d love to get in touch with them.”

Voters also replaced former Mayor Frank Fields, an outspoken proponent of the drone ordinance, which he had said would benefit the town financially. Fields even erected a billboard declaring Deer Trail to be a “No Drone Zone” on his property facing Interstate 70.

While many see the drone-hunting proposal as a symbolic protest or a harmless moneymaker — firing on unmanned aircraft is illegal and shotguns aren’t thought to be the most effective tool for bringing them down — Steel says it addresses serious issues of eroding freedoms and an invasion of privacy. He said it’s up to rural Americans to stand up for their rights.

“Most of America is rural,” he said. “There’s a lot of land between the cities … that are forgotten entirely by Washington D.C. There’s no representation. So it’s a David and Goliath sort of thing.”

“I kind of have a feeling that the sleeping lion is beginning to wake up.”

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