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Technology

Police Not Issuing Charges For Handgun-Firing Drone -- Feds Undecided 312

Mr.Intel sends a followup to last week's news of an 18-year-old man getting a lot of attention for posting a video of a handgun being fired from a drone. Despite calls to arrest the man, police say they can't find any reason to charge him. "It appears to be a case of technology surpassing current legislation," they said. Todd Lawrie, the chief of police where it happened, said, "We are attempting to determine if any laws have been violated at this point. It would seem to the average person, there should be something prohibiting a person from attaching a weapon to a drone. At this point, we can't find anything that's been violated. The legislature in Connecticut (recently) addressed a number of questions with drones, mostly around how law enforcement was going to use drones. It is a gray area, and it's caught the legislature flatfooted." The FAA and other federal agencies are still investigating and trying to figure out if any criminal statutes were violated.
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Police Not Issuing Charges For Handgun-Firing Drone -- Feds Undecided

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  • by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2015 @08:32AM (#50159251)

    It bothers me when I hear of regulatory organizations "investigating" to determine if a law has been broken. If the agency directly responsible for the enforcement of a law cannot immediately decide if an action is illegal how can anyone reasonably expect a regular citizen to know if they are breaking the law?

    • Just because the PR people say words does not make them the most accurate depiction of events occurring. More than likely they are determining if the act meets the tests required by law and if there is reasonable likelihood that a criminal case can be successfully prosecuted. Court cases are expensive - both in money and resources; having the prosecution review a case for potential applicability is SOP.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There are a lot of laws on the books, and when the public cries out "This man needs to be arrested!" they have to do a full investigation. They can't just say "Well, it doesn't look like there's anything wrong here. Go home folks." Because then people will bitch about some obscure law that - through a lot of hand waving and misinterpretation - makes this activity illegal, or people will start bitching that this should obviously be illegal and cops should do something about it anyways(which they can't -

    • by JeffSh ( 71237 ) <{gro.0m0m} {ta} {todhsalsffej}> on Wednesday July 22, 2015 @08:57AM (#50159459)

      regular citizens can never know if they're breaking the law, there are so many of them after all, but therein lies an interesting thing. the law is rarely applied based on who is breaking the law, but rather who the person is.

      anyone can be singled out and have their life turned upside down by law enforcement, it's all a matter of application. application of the law occurs on people who already have their feet wet and lower socio economic classes.

      keep your nose clean and you won't run afoul of the law. I'd say that especially goes for "do no harm to anyone else" areas, that's how you first get in trouble, is if you assault or cause a harm to someone else. that raises your profile initially and from then on the system is inadvertently designed to focus on you and drive you into the ground.

      most people get away with all kinds of minor crimes, so long as they don't actually physically or monetarily harm someone else (or be black) you won't get dragged into the undertow of the criminal justice system.

      • by tompaulco ( 629533 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2015 @11:34AM (#50160819) Homepage Journal

        regular citizens can never know if they're breaking the law, there are so many of them after all, but therein lies an interesting thing. the law is rarely applied based on who is breaking the law, but rather who the person is.

        anyone can be singled out and have their life turned upside down by law enforcement, it's all a matter of application. application of the law occurs on people who already have their feet wet and lower socio economic classes.

        keep your nose clean and you won't run afoul of the law. I'd say that especially goes for "do no harm to anyone else" areas, that's how you first get in trouble, is if you assault or cause a harm to someone else. that raises your profile initially and from then on the system is inadvertently designed to focus on you and drive you into the ground.

        most people get away with all kinds of minor crimes, so long as they don't actually physically or monetarily harm someone else (or be black) you won't get dragged into the undertow of the criminal justice system.

        That holds true for most people, but sometimes you are dragged into something you don't want to. For example, if you are minding your own business running a convenience store and some guys come in with guns demanding money, and out of fear for your life, you shoot first and kill one of them. Now you have to spend the rest of your life in jail for something that you never premeditated or wanted to have happen.

    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2015 @08:58AM (#50159471)

      Well this is exactly what happens when the technology or social norms surpass existing laws. If the laws were so clear cut at all times we wouldn't need someone to bring the case to court, and we wouldn't need judges to decide how the law applies, and we wouldn't need a legislator to update the laws.

      If any legal system stays stable long enough eventually you will run into this scenario. The regular citizen can't be expected to know until either a ruling has been made or a new law is passed. This is situation normal.

    • by paradxum ( 67051 )
      That is a great point! My beliefs on the quality of a law are as simple as this:

      Laws that are there to prevent the abuse of something (gun, knife, rock) are good.

      Laws that are there to prevent the potential for abuse of something (see examples above) are bad and impose on the freedom of citizens.

      This is clearly someone that is not abusing anything. The potential for abuse is high, yes I give you that, but the potential for abuse of a steak knife is high too.
      • by dave420 ( 699308 )
        Surely It's also a balance of how useful something is when used correctly compared to the damage it can do when misused.
        • Surely It's also a balance of how useful something is when used correctly compared to the damage it can do when misused.

          Subjective bullshit and I can prove it.

          I declare that nothing you have ever done or potentially will ever do is useful. Now head off to jail, criminal.

          • Oh? So we should allow all citizens to tinker with high-yield nuclear weapons in downtown metropolitan areas, since there is only the *potential* of harm provided they don't do anything stupid? I think that's going to be a hard sell.

            Or how about juggling sealed vials of weaponized Smallpox at the World Fair or something? So long as you don't drop them there's only the *potential* to kill hundreds of millions of people, so it should be perfectly legal, right?

            I agree with you in general principle, but ther

    • In many cases, the full circumstances of an event make the difference whether a law has been broken or not.

      Were there any license requirements for things like flying the drone, owning the gun, firing a gun from a flying platform? Was that drone allowed to carry any cargo?

      Where did it happen exactly? It may make a difference whether it's private land, public land, a gun range, or maybe a nature reserve.

      It is not that black and white. So many possible questions may be raised which may determine that an act i

    • It bothers me when I hear of regulatory organizations "investigating" to determine if a law has been broken. If the agency directly responsible for the enforcement of a law cannot immediately decide if an action is illegal how can anyone reasonably expect a regular citizen to know if they are breaking the law?

      If they are investigating, then they will find a law that he has broken. Perhaps he was wearing a hat on a Tuesday, or tied his mule to a horse hitching post or something, but there is no doubt he has broken some law. They will find one.

  • I seriously doubt that we have drones stable enough to handle the recoil of a handgun without missing the target by at least a few meters .. The stuff otherwise sounds cool :)
    • Re:Accuracy? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2015 @08:49AM (#50159393) Journal

      That's not too hard, actually, from an engineering perspective. It adds expense and complexity, certainly, but it's just a design parameter. Alter the mount to react with uniform stiffness centered around and aligned with the barrel and bolt reaction mass center and you'll reduce your problem to a simple 2DOF force couple system.

      I would guess that state of the art drone weapon systems are every bit as accurate as the most accomplished human snipers.

    • Recoil is only really a problem after the first shot anyway. Further there dosent need to be asymmetry designed into a drone the force can be lined up with the center of mass so it only gets pushed back and there is little to no rotation.
    • I thought recoil only happens the moment the bullet leaves the barrel, and as such recoil has no effect on accuracy. The more impressive thing is that the drone handles the recoil without breaking apart or being smacked into the ground, instead it handles it quite gracefully.

      • It takes up to several milliseconds* for the bullet to exit the barrel. During that time, the gas is pushing both the bullet and the firearm. Because of geometry, shortly after the bullet exits, the gas stops pushing on it, but it still acts on the barrel.

        So, most of the recoil happens after the bullet has left, but not all of it.

        * The time depends on a lot of factors, the length of the barrel and the burn rate of the propellant are obviously huge, but also less obvious factors like the headspace of the c

  • by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2015 @08:44AM (#50159347) Homepage Journal

    Welp, now those firefighting helicopters are in REAL trouble

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2015 @08:45AM (#50159359) Homepage

    We are attempting to determine if any laws have been violated at this point.

    As an american citizen I'm appalled by this statement. This is the land of japanese internment camps and the red scare. We once legally declared a person was 3/5ths a man based on their skin color. Heck, we have a secret prison in another country just to indefinitely punish people for anything we want at all, just because we declared they were an 'enemy combatant.' On a state by state basis we have a dazzling array of local regulations that prohibit everything from dancing to wandering the street with an icecream cone in your pocket. Clearly these officers arent trying hard enough.

    Just remember: if you cant find anything to charge them with and they havent broken any laws, chances are good you can just kill them for disagreeing with you and still not be indicted for anything.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      red scare

      News flash. McCarthy was right. There were commie agents all over the damn place.

      • by dave420 ( 699308 )
        And that justified the ruining of peoples' lives who simply had left-leaning sympathies? Being a socialist or even a communist doesn't mean one is automatically an enemy of the state.
        • Are you going somewhere with this?

          McCarthy was going after soviet agents. That he was going after mere lefties was fiction written by said soviet agents and piled on by their "useful idiots". (their term, not mine)

          McCarthy has been very thoroughly vindicated, first by the Venona project that intercepted soviet communications, and then by the opening of the KGB files.

          Claims otherwise are in the same category as claims that Columbus thought the world was flat.

        • Sure it does. You just have to define "state" as "the socio-economic power structure furthering the interests of the people currently in power". Conveniently, that's usually the practical definition anyway.

  • Existing Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xdor ( 1218206 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2015 @08:46AM (#50159365)

    He hasn't committed a crime.

    1. Apparently he wasn't trespassing.
    2. Apparently the gun is legal
    3. He was flying an R/C plane (below obstacles from what one can tell on the video)

    If he shoots people or trespasses there's existing law. Flying a hobby project on private land with a gun or a container of fireworks may be ill-advised -- but you don't need to make another law because you feel threatened by the brave/stupid things people choose to do with their life and property.

    • by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2015 @08:50AM (#50159399) Homepage Journal

      Remember, your autonomous roving drone with a Beretta and solenoid is not an automatic weapon unless you code the trigger as a do/while loop!

      Unroll the loop, so it counts as ten individual fire events that just happen to trigger really really fast ;P

      • by pla ( 258480 )
        I realize you meant that as a joke, but seriously - A select-fire weapon has a hell of a lot more to do with the firing mechanism than how fast you can pull the trigger. A double-action semi will never function as a full auto no matter how you pull the trigger.

        Case in point, entirely legal bump-fire triggers on '15s - Yes, they can spit rounds out at a rate approaching a full auto (albeit with all the accuracy of a monkey flinging feces) - But you'd need a frickin' miracle to make it through a standard 3
      • I'm curious about the accuracy of the last shot. The drone seems to move ever so slightly after the first one...
    • by Dredd13 ( 14750 )

      The gun is legal but his use of the solenoid to depress the trigger may not have been. It may have transformed the "legal handgun" to simply being one component of an NFA automatic-weapon.

      • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2015 @09:15AM (#50159617)

        The gun is legal but his use of the solenoid to depress the trigger may not have been. It may have transformed the "legal handgun" to simply being one component of an NFA automatic-weapon.

        So what you are saying... is that when I build my own weaponized drone, I should arm it with a flamethrower instead of a hand gun?

        Good to know...

        • by Dredd13 ( 14750 )

          A flamethrower would be outside the purview of the ATF. :-)

          • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

            A flamethrower would be outside the purview of the ATF. :-)

            Pretty sure a flamethrower counts as a destructive device and therefore is fully under the purview of the ATF. Especially since they are really the Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE).

            • by Dredd13 ( 14750 )

              Neither the NFA or GCA has any regulations to deal with flamethrowers. "Destructive devices" must be explosive in nature, which a flamethrower is not.

              True story.

            • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

              I still say ATF should be a convince store not a government agency.

      • Re:Existing Law (Score:4, Informative)

        by Orgasmatron ( 8103 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2015 @10:11AM (#50160101)

        No.

        Benchrest shooters use mechanical, electrical and hydraulic systems to activate triggers all the time. As do gunsmiths when accurately zeroing a scope, or when test firing a gun of unknown safety.

        What matters is that the gun not fire more than once per human action.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by joneil ( 677771 )

      Here in Canada, under Transport Canada rules, mounting any weapon on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), aka "drone", or "weaponizing" a UAC (aka" drone) is against the law, unless you have a special permit/permission to do so. As far as I know, here in Canada, the only people who have that "permission" are the military. I do not even think the police have that right here in Canada.

      I know the laws differ from the USA to Canada on several issues (for example, the handgun alone would be illegal in Canada in

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2015 @08:47AM (#50159381) Homepage

    and just make something up to arrest him for? Cops are good at that. Disorderly conduct is vague enough to stick.

  • How does the law in the US stand regarding unmanned combat aerial vehicles under the control of civilians?

    Definition of a UCAV: a remotely operated or automatic drone equipped with a weapon that is a: guided (camera targetting?) and b: able to be fired remotely.

  • by awkScooby ( 741257 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2015 @09:02AM (#50159505)
    When did we switch from, "who did this [obvious] crime?" to "let's figure out what crimes X committed?" The feds know what this guy did. Either it's a crime, or it's not. If it requires a massive amount of digging (by subject matter experts) to try to find some law to charge the guy with, it's not justice. I suspect any one of us could be found guilty of multiple felonies if a team of lawyers were tasked with charging us with something. Having said that, this guy's an idiot for having his name associated with a video containing two hot button issues combined together.
  • Criminal intent? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sinij ( 911942 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2015 @09:06AM (#50159547)
    >>>We are attempting to determine if any laws have been violated at this point

    What happens to first determining if there was any criminal intent or adverse consequences?

    ... and this is why you should never talk to police. They might just determine that you have been violating something while talking with you.
    • What happens to first determining if there was any criminal intent...

      You can't really have criminal intent to eat a piece of toast at your breakfast table, but you can have criminal intent to kill someone. What's the difference? Killing someone is a crime. So you have to know if something is a crime before you can determine if the plan to do it is reflective of criminal intent.

      ...or adverse consequences?

      If you plan to murder someone, and even attempt the act, but the intended victim is unaware that you took a shot at them with your silienced movie-quality assassin's rifle and missed ... what are th

  • "It appears to be a case of technology surpassing current legislation."

    They're intentionally not finding a reason to arrest him and they tell you why right there. They want new laws. This is an underhanded attempt at manipulating the public and I very much suspect it will work if the comments on this story are any indication.

  • "But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt."

  • They actually attach weapons to drones, and kill people with that.
    Still nobody thought it would be a nice idea to have any law around this concept, stating that army is ok, police not, and private not at all.

  • I can't find it right now, but there was a quote from a Supreme Court Justice, I believe it was in the 30s-40s, along the lines of how dangerous it is when there are so many laws that the government can pretty much pick what they charge a person with, because everyone is guaranteed to have violated *some* of them at some time.
    If someone could find that, it would be pithy here.

  • Who cares? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Karmashock ( 2415832 )

    If I tapped a shotgun to the front of a car, would that make the car a tank? No?

    Okay, so why does attaching a hand gun to a remote controlled helicopter make it an armed "drone".

    These things aren't even drones. Are they autonomous? Nope. Do they have any kind of artificial intelligence? Only to assist with hovering and gyroscopic stabilization... I wouldn't call that AI.

    So first off, it isn't a drone. And second off... people could have glued a gun to remote controlled anything ages ago. Why is this suddenl

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