DEER TRAIL – The town of Deer Trail hasn’t gained tourist traction as the home of the “Home of the Worlds very first Rodeo on July 4, 1869” – but has captured national media attention over a ballot measure to shoot down spy drones.
The proposed ordinance caught the attention of people angered by the increased surveillance of U.S. citizens.
The town trustees were split over the proposed “No-drone Zone” ordinance Tuesday, but they plan to let the roughly 550 town residents settle the issue during a special election in November.
Located 54 miles east of Denver on I-70, the rural community was barely noticed until last month when resident Phillip Steel suggested an ordinance to grant licenses to shoot down drones and award a cash bounty to the licensed hunter who could produce evidence of the unmanned aircraft kill.
“If you don’t want your drone to go down, don’t fly it in our town,” declared Phillips at the town hall meeting Tuesday night. “I’m dead serious.”
“Whereas State and federal entities, non-government organizations, and powerful corporate interests, state and non-state actors, terrorists and others are threatened by traditional American ideas of Liberty and Freedom, and a heritage of such principles remain inherent in the common way of life by ranchers, farmers, cowboys and Indians, as well as contemporary citizens of Deer trail,” begins the proposed ordinance.
The 7-page document sets forth guidelines to issue drone hunting licenses to applicants, aged 21 or older, for a $25 fee and does not impose a criminal background check. The ordinance states acceptable ammunition and weaponry, including “any shotgun, 12 gauge or smaller, having a barrel length of 18 inches or greater.”
In addition to the $100 bounty award for each successful drone destroyer, the town may sell the hunting licenses as a novelty to folks across the country and host an annual drone hunt.
Deer Trail Mayor Frank Fields said he likes the Drone hunting ordinance and predicts it will pass. Field envisions the license drawing new revenue to the town through online license applications, tourism and souvenir shops.
“We need business, we need money,” Fields said.
The drone hunting licenses are viewed as a revolt against the federal government, which expanded the use of unmanned aircraft in foreign countries for spying and attacks on terrorists to include the United States, reportedly for rescue and weather purposes.
The Obama administration has come under fire for gathering Americans’ phone records , and critics have complained about law enforcement agencies tracking citizens’ movements by secretly photographing vehicle license tags and entering the data into a computer system that stretches nationwide.
“Using it against terrorists is okay, but we don’t need to be using it in our little towns, peeking in windows and stuff,” said Fields.
Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates all airspace in the country, warned that any drone “hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air.”
“Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane,” stated the FAA.
The warning hasn’t deterred Steel and proponents of the drone hunting license ordinance according to the History of Deer Trail’s Facebook page.
“State and local governments throughout the country are talking about the fantastic possibilities of using unmanned aerial vehicles,” said Steel. “It is time to take a stand against becoming a surveillance society.”