The small town of Deer Trail, Colorado found itself in the national spotlight after it announced a proposal to start a “drone hunting season” in July. The proposed city ordinance to allow hunting of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, is still more than a month away. That has not stopped more than 1,000 supporters from buying symbolic drone hunting licenses for $25 each. The issue was brought to the town’s seven-member board two months ago by activist Phillip Steel, who is concerned that drones could threaten personal privacy and a number of constitutional rights.
“We do not want drones in town,” Steel said previously. “They fly in town, they get shot down [...] basically, I do not believe in the idea of a surveillance society, and I believe we are heading that way.”
According to the Associated Press, Steel also runs the website droneshooters.com, where hunting licenses with a Predator drone’s likeness are sold for $25 plus shipping. Drones are frequently used by U.S. armed forces and intelligence forces abroad for reconnaissance and military operations.
“I wrote this ordinance in June 2013,” Steel wrote on the site. “Since that time, the ordinance has made its way into every newspaper in the country. Add to that, television, radio, and the Internet, and it has made its way around the globe. It has captured the imagination of the American people and beyond. It is a call to all who love peace and freedom to stand up and resist all those who would trample precious liberty.”
Although the licenses for sale on Steel’s site contain signature lines for Deer Trail’s mayor, Frank Fields, and a witness, they are only novelty versions of the actual permit that will be sold by the town if the ordinance is passed. Despite this, Steel reportedly already sold over 1,000 of these licenses. As the town of Deer Trail only has a population of around 500, it can be inferred that Steel is getting plenty of support from outside. Town officials say that Steel has donated a portion of his profits back to the town.
If Steel’s proposed ordinance is passed, Deer Trail will not only offer hunting licenses but also bounties on the unmanned vehicles. However, damaging federal property is against the law and the usage of drones in and around Deer Trail has never been confirmed, so supporters maintain that the movement is symbolic in nature.
Image courtesy Lt Col Leslie Pratt/ U.S. Air Force