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Drones with weapons! What could go wrong?

Just yesterday a woman was killed when police tasered her.

Also in the news today is the case of a young woman who was tasered by police last year in Florida. When she fell down she smacked her head against the asphalt and will likely be brain dead forever. She was 20 years old when she was struck by the taser.

Police in Ohio tased a 9 year old boy earlier this week, as well, for the crime of not going to school. He was reportedly lying on the ground with his hands under his body; such a threat to a grown man with a gun and electric taser that he had to be zapped.

These stories are just a few among literally hundreds of cases of inappropriate, deadly or seriously harmful taser deployments available via a simple Google search. The message seems clear enough: despite what the police and taser companies say, the machines clearly hurt people enough to seriously injure or kill them, and with some regularity. The Ohio case demonstrates that police don't always use the best judgment with these toys.

So how about we put tasers and other potentially lethal "less than lethal" weapons on flying robots? Sounds like a great idea, right?

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Um, no.

As ACLU attorney and co-author of a report on drones Catherine Crump says in the above video, weaponizing drones is troubling, to say the least.

After all, if people are routinely seriously injured and even killed by so-called "non" or "less-than" lethals, why on earth would anyone think it a good idea to further remove the shooter from the target, losing a human element that fosters basic empathy?

The CIA has been pursuing a deadly, "secret" (not secret at all) drone war abroad. As our foreign wars wind down, the drone industry boasts that it is shifting its business to the domestic front and taking the US by storm. Police nationwide are eager to get their hands on surveillance drones, which is obviously extremely troubling in the absence of any regulations policing the watchers. And the largess with which DHS and DOJ give technology grants to local police departments for such toys guarantees that local communities won't be granted a voice if they attempt to oppose the adoption of drones at the local level. (After all, if the money is coming from the feds, it's all good, right?)

But weapons on drones? This is like a bad nightmare from which we can't awake. 

Stay tuned for more information on drones and to learn how you can fight back against the coming robot army. We are paying close attention to this issue. And unlike the drones, we've got your back.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.