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Connecticut bill would allow police to put deadly weapons on drones

Connecticut lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow police in the state to add lethal weapons to drones. If approved, Connecticut would be the first state in the country to allow police to use drones equipped with lethal weaponry. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

If a bill currently before the state legislature becomes law, Connecticut police will have the authority to put deadly weapons on drones.

Lawmakers in the Constitution State are considering a bill that would make the state the first in the country to allow police to use drones equipped with lethal weaponry, CBS News reported. The bill would ban the use of weaponized drones, while exempting police.

“Obviously, this is for very limited circumstances,” Republican state Sen. John Kissel, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee that approved the measure Wednesday and sent it to the state’s House of Representatives. “We can certainly envision some incident on some campus — or someplace where someone is a rogue shooter, or someone was kidnapped, and you try to blow out a tire.”

In 2015, North Dakota became the first state to allow weaponized drones, but it limits the use to non-lethal weapons, such as stun guns, rubber bullets, and tear gas, NPR reported.

Five other states — Nevada, North Carolina, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Oregon — ban anyone, police or otherwise, from using weaponized drones. Maine and Virginia specifically bar police from using armed drones, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Connecticut Democrats are not happy with the proposed legislation. In fact, Democratic state Sen. Edwin Gomes said, “I think that police are taught one thing: You put a weapon in their hand, they shoot center mass, they shoot to kill.”

“If it’s going to be used,” she continued, “you’re going to use it to kill somebody.”

And Scot X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut chapter of the NAACP, expressed “huge concerns” that weaponized drones could be used to “abuse our communities.”

Three Connecticut police departments — in Hartford, Plainfield and Woodbury — started using weaponless drones last year. Adding weapons to the devices, according to the ACLU, would set a “dangerous precedent.”

“It is really concerning and outrageous that that’s being considered in our state legislature,” David McGuire, executive director of the state’s ACLU chapter, told WCBS-AM. “Lethal force raises this to a level of real heightened concern.”

“We’re not in warfare here,” he added.

In fact,  McGuire said, adding any weapons to the drones — both lethal and non-lethal — would make it a lot easier for police to use force and would make their work “almost video game like where they’re detached from the actual situation.”

In addition to allowing police to use the drones as weapons, the Connecticut bill would also mandate that police get a warrant before employing the devices. The only exceptions would be emergency situations or instances where the subject of the drone use gives permission.

The bill would require police to file a yearly report, outlining how often the drones were used and why and it would establish new penalties for unlawful use of drones, such as for voyeurism.

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