Readings — From the November 2013 issue

Open Season

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From a transcript of a meeting held on August 6 by the town council of Deer Trail, Colorado. On July 2, Phillip Steel, a local resident, proposed an ordinance to the council “to defend the sovereign airspace of the Town of Deer Trail, Colorado, and that of its citizens, their homes, businesses, related properties and interests, from unwanted incursions by small unmanned aerial vehicles (popularly referred to as ‘drones’).” The council’s vote at the meeting was 3–3; the town planned to hold a referendum on the proposal.

mayor frank fields: Phillip Steel, in keeping with the Western traditions of sovereignty and freedom, has submitted a sample document to be adopted by the town of Deer Trail as an ordinance.

phillip steel: Tonight we are here to consider a piece of legislation that will make an important statement against surveillance society. In 2015, the federal government will implement new guidelines, which will extend navigable airspace all the way down to ground level. This is an extension of federal power the likes of which has no precedent in the history of the United States.

[Reads the ordinance.]

Okay, this has a provision about remote-controlled toy aerial vehicles. Basically the vehicle needs to be within a thousand feet and must be in plain sight. If it is accidentally engaged, then the shooter must reimburse the owner of the toy vehicle for the full cost of its value.

We have had a great deal of interest in hunting licenses. Obviously they can be sold anywhere. They’ll be twenty-five dollars apiece. They’ll be suitable for framing. The math is simple. If we sell twenty-five thousand of them, that’s a quarter of a million dollars to the town. And we could easily sell more than that. The bounties — that’s the fun part. If somebody brings in one wing and a fuselage, they get twenty-five dollars. If they bring in a whole, intact drone, with even the tail section missing or damaged, they get a hundred dollars.

This is a new shooting sport. We’ve captured the imagination of the American public. We’ve received tens of thousands of emails. I’m serious. This has been reported in every newspaper in the country. This could bring a lot of money to Deer Trail.

fields: We’re going to limit the questions to three minutes, maximum. Yes, Mr. Johnson.

johnson: I got one simple question: Who’s gonna support all this? How much is it gonna cost to, uh, supervise it and everything? Are you just going to let anybody go out and shoot?

fields: No, no, no. See, you’re not listening to the ordinance!

johnson: Yeah, but who’s gonna have to pay for it?

woman #1: The town?

fields: No, no! See, you guys take it all wrong.

man #2: Who covers the property that gets damaged from the shot-down drones?

man #3: Won’t that twenty-five-dollar fee help cover costs?

fields: It will, when we get enough Americans. We got a good start already — if it passes.

woman #2: Okay, we pass this ordinance, but it’s still against federal law to shoot down a drone. You shoot one down, turn it in, you’re gonna have federal law come in.

steel: Okay, first of all, I want to say — and thank God for this — there are no drones flying in our skies. This is still small unmanned vehicles. The ones the new federal guidelines refer to — these are the size of birds. Most of them are fifty-five pounds or less.

As far as the costs, currently we have a couple hundred people signed up to get drone-hunting licenses, and a lot are buying them in bulk. Everybody wants to get the number-one license. I suggest reserving licenses one to ten and making those commemorative. Number eleven and on can sell for twenty-five dollars. The first ten, or whatever the town decides — what if they start auctioning those, the bids starting at $25,000?

[Laughter from the room.]

No, seriously.

man #4: Dream on!

steel: We can do this. We can do this.

man #5: Who’s we?

man #6: The United States of America!

steel: The town. Now as far as, say, licenses eleven and on up, the town board could even say, “Okay, the first week of this, we’re going to open it only to Deer Trail residents.” What if the whole town gets one week to start buying these, and we draw from a hat? One of you guys is going to get number eleven, somebody’s going to get number twelve. You can hang them on your wall, you can auction them, whatever.

man #7: I’d like to say something. I spent nine and a half months in Iraq. We watched drones fly in morning, noon, and night. That over there is not a drone. That’s a toy. I don’t think anybody in here except in a picture on the Internet or the paper has seen a real drone. I’ve seen real drones. Some of them are the size of a Cessna airplane now. The majority of them belong to the United States Air Force. A small percentage of them belong to the CIA. You’re never gonna know where those are. All right. If you pass this ordinance that he has right there and put a bounty on a U.S. Air Force drone, what you are in effect doing is authorizing deadly force against your own government.

woman #3: Yes!

[Cheers and applause.]

man #7: I have five sons who have been in the military. Two of them are in the military right now. I served in Iraq. I know drones kept me alive. I know drones kept them alive. The drone program in the United States is under attack from the left. This kind of shenanigans and ridiculousness over drones in Deer Trail only fuels their side. This is not a conservative move here. This is a joke, and you are hurting our U.S. service members.

man #8: I beg to differ with this veteran. There are drones that are small enough to come in this room if they want them to. If they can be put on paper, they can be made real. That’s a violation of the Fifth Amendment. If you don’t take care of your Bill of Rights, your Constitution of the United States, we’re already a lost people. Because this president we have, this Congress, has violated this Constitution. They have relegated it to the trash can.

[Cheers and applause.]

fields: Anyone else?

man #9: I got a question. This the best we can come up with? I mean, the way I’m understanding it, this is all about money. Correct?

fields: Yes.

man #9: Revenue. And this is the best we can come up with?

fields: You got any better ideas?

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