Kansas groups demand city ban weapon-carrying drones

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A handful of political and activist organizations in Kansas have partnered to request Lawrence city government officials to protect residents from drones and legislate against their local use.

The five groups — the Douglas County Libertarians, the Douglas County Republican Party, the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice, the MadreLawrence and the Young Americans for Liberty at University of Kansas — say the pre-emptive move is needed to secure citizens’ civil liberties. Group heads sent a letter to the Lawrence City Commission, calling on it “to put in place safeguards ensuring that civil liberties are protected as domestic drones become more common in the coming years,” the letter stated.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that up to 30,000 domestic drones could be flying by the year 2020. The federal agency is currently creating policies to guide domestic drone use — but are not taking proper steps to uphold civil rights, the groups say.

“For this reason, it is essential for local and state governments to put in place restrictions now to ensure that drones do not infringe on citizens’ right to privacy and other constitutional rights,” the groups said in their letter. “Drones present a unique threat to privacy based on their ability to stay aloft for hours and conduct constant surveillance. Also, armed drone carrying rubber bullets, tear gas or grenade launchers — features already available on some drones — could intimidate individuals and threaten their right to assemble.”

The groups are requesting Lawrence officials to outright ban drones capable of carrying weapons, to put a moratorium on all drone use until local guidelines are developed and to ban all drone use for information-collecting purposes, unless that information could be admissible in court or in life-or-death situations.

“Other municipalities, such as Charlottesville, Virginia, already have begun addressing the concerns posed by drones,” the groups said in their letter. “We call on the Lawrence City Commission to take similar action.”

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