Originally published February 18 2013
More U.S. states now seek to limit use of drones
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) As drone usage proliferates among federal agencies and the U.S. military, an increasing number of states are fighting back with legislation aimed at limiting or banning outright the use of the unmanned surveillance vehicles in their airspace.
In fact, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, lawmakers in at least 10 states, including California, Oregon, Texas, Nebraska, Missouri, North Dakota, Florida, Virginia, Maine and Oklahoma, are examining ways they can legislatively prohibit or limit use of UAVs due to rising citizen concerns about rampant invasion of privacy.
Here is a snapshot of the legislation being considered by some states:
Texas: As Natural News has reported, Texas is considering what would become the nation's toughest anti-drone legislation.
Under a measure filed by state Rep. Lance Gooden, a Republican, the bill would essentially outlaw the use of drones over Texas by individuals or by state and federal law enforcement agencies.
In an interview with San Antonio radio station WOAI, Gooden said his bill would contain exceptions but that those would be limited. For instance, it would allow drones within 25 miles of the Rio Grande river for use in interdicting drug smugglers and illegal immigrants. It would also allow use by law enforcement with a valid search or arrest warrant, with "probable cause to believe that a person has committed a felony."
Montana: State senators in Montana have looked at a pair of bills that would restrict the use of drones, which are most widely associated with use in a war zone but which are being used more frequently by federal agencies, as well as some state and local police departments.
"The chamber is preparing to give initial approval to one bill that bans information collected by drones from being used in court. It also would bar local and state government ownership of drones equipped with weapons," The Associated Press reported.
Oregon: Senate Bill 71, according to KTVZ, would ban even private ownership of drones that some companies use in aerial photography.
Introduced by state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, a Democrat from Eugene, the measure as currently written would include penalties of up to 20 years in jail and a fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars. State Sen. John Huffman, a Republican from The Dalles; however, wants legislation that "is geared toward restrictions on law enforcement and other public agencies," the television station reported on its website.
Missouri: A House committee heard testimony Feb. 4 on legislation introduced by Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, "that would outlaw the use of unmanned aircraft to conduct surveillance on individuals or property," TV station KY3 reported. "The bill would grant an exception only for law enforcement agencies that obtain a warrant."
State legislatures lining up to say 'no' to drones
Guernsey's measure is supported by the ACLU, a family lobbyist and agricultural groups who have likely read previous reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has used drones to monitor the activities of farmers in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa.
As drone technology improves, as drones themselves become smaller and smaller, and as more federal, state and local agencies seek to acquire them, Americans are rightfully becoming increasingly mindful of the Constitution's privacy provisions. In some instances, citizens are getting their way.
"Last week, after an especially raucous city council hearing, the Seattle police department terminated its drones program and agreed to return the purchased equipment to the manufacturer," Slate.com reported Feb. 11.
The online magazine went on to report that the decision by the Seattle P.D. came a few days after the Virginia legislature passed "historic bills" that impose a two-year moratorium on the use of drones by law enforcement and regulatory agencies, to give lawmakers a chance to study the implications of the technology.
"The big policy question is whether we want to live in a free society as envisioned by our Founding Fathers or an Orwellian surveillance society," said Del. C. Todd Gilbert, who introduced one of the bills. "I'm glad to see that my colleagues agree with me in our preference for a Commonwealth that values privacy and personal freedom over Big Brother."
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