Colorado town considers licensing bounty hunters to shoot down drones

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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The tiny town of Deer Trail, Colo. — barely more than a wide spot on Interstate 70 about 55 miles east of Denver, population 546 — is considering an ordinance that would authorize licensed bounty hunters to shoot down unmanned aircraft violating its “sovereign airspace.”

A six-page petition circulated by a resident says that the threat of surveillance from drones — regardless of who is piloting them — is a threat to “traditional American ideas of Liberty and Freedom” enjoyed by Deer Trail’s “ranchers, farmers, cowboys and Indians, as well as contemporary citizens.”

Therefore, drone incursions are to be seen as acts of war.

According to the proposed ordinance, which will be considered by the town council at its next meeting on Aug. 6, prospective bounty hunters can get a one-year drone-hunting license for $25.

Proposed bounties will be $25 for those turning in the wings or fuselage of downed aircraft and $100 for mostly intact vehicles. To collect the bounty, the wreckage must have “markings, and configuration … consistent with those used by the United States federal government.”

Such “trophies” then become the property of Deer Trail.

The ordinance spells out the rules of engagement. Shooters must use shotguns, 12-gauge or smaller, firing lead, steel or depleted uranium ammunition and they can’t fire on aircraft flying higher than 1,000 (a determination made using a range finder or a best guess). No weapons with rifled barrels allowed, and no tracer rounds.

An “engagement” is limited to three shots at an aircraft every two hours. Being unable to bring down the drone within those guidelines, the petition notes, “demonstrates a lack of proficiency with the weapon.”

Drones can become targets if the bounty hunter feels the aircraft is stalking them, if they maneuver as if they’re following someone, or if they display any weaponry.

But if anyone accidentally shoots down a remote-controlled toy airplane, the proposed ordinance warns, “the owner of the toy remote control aerial vehicle shall be reimbursed for its full cost by the shooter.”

Unless, that is, the toy aircraft was flying over the shooter’s property.

“Throughout its history, the Town of Deer Trail has maintained its independence from all other political entities,” the ordinance reads. “Therefore, the Town of Deer Trail declares its supremacy over its territorial boundaries and, with respect to this ordinance, the supremacy and sovereignty of its airspace and its citizen’s right to defend the airspace of the town, their homes, businesses and related properties from unwanted incursions by unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Phillip Steel, the citizen who circulated the petition, did not return an email from The Daily Caller News Foundation seeking comment, but in an article in the local I-70 Scout newspaper (posted on a town history Facebook page), he says he was motivated by recent revelations about domestic spying by the National Security Agency.

“State and local governments throughout the country are talking about the fantastic possibilities using unmanned aerial vehicles,” he’s quoted as telling the town board when he introduced the idea July 2. “It’s time to take a stand against becoming a surveillance society.”

Town Clerk Kim Oldfield wrote in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation that Steel collected “way more” than the signatures needed to bring the idea to a vote in a special election, but said that the town board was considering adopting it outright “from an economic standpoint.”

Because the ordinance doesn’t limit the licenses to only Deer Creek residents, the town could raise money from people in other states who want the novelty of having an official drone-hunting license.

Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, whose jurisdiction covers Deer Trail and whose agency would be “prohibited from enforcing any law, edict or regulatory determination that is in conflict with this ordinance,” under the wording of the measure being considered, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

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