Local police in North Dakota are the first in the nation to be allowed to deploy drones armed with nonlethal weapons such as Tasers, tear gas and pepper spray.
A new bill passed in North Dakota’s state legislature in April — originally designed to limit the use of drones — requires law enforcement to secure a warrant if they want to use surveillance drones to gather evidence in a criminal investigation, and an early draft of the bill banned equipping drones with weapons.
But Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officers Association successfully pushed an amendment that limited the ban to only lethal weapons, The Daily Beast reported.
The amendment allows law enforcement officials to use nonlethal weapons such as pepper spray and rubber bullets — which can still cause serious injury or even death.
At least 39 people have been killed by police stun-guns this year in the U.S., according to the Guardian.
Republican state Rep. Rick Becker, the bill’s sponsor, said he was wary of the change and wished the language had stayed the same to prohibit all weapons on drones.
“This is one I’m not in full agreement with. I wish it was any weapon,” he said in a March hearing, The Daily Beast reported. “In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: Drones should not be weaponized.”
The new bill comes amid national outcry over police brutality and the demilitarization of law enforcement following protesting over police killings of unarmed black men.
North Dakota is one of the state where the Federal Aviation Administration is testing the safety of drones and is also the only FAA-approved site where drones can be test-flown above 200 feet in the air or at night.