Image for article titled Taser Drones Are the School Shooting 'Solution' No One Asked For

The maker of tasers, police body cameras, and virtual reality training simulations wants to add a new buzzy product to its tech policing ecosystems: stun guns. Privacy and civil liberties groups believe that the drones may do more harm than good and that they could be used to suppress political dissidents.

The idea was floated in a press release this week by the company. Research shows that the deaths of at least 500 people have been caused by the use of the stun gun. When the drone is fully developed, the company hopes it will be able to incapacitate an active shooter in less than 60 seconds.

A person with a gun is the only viable response to a mass shooting. We are stuck in pointless debates after these events. New and improved solutions are needed.

Smith proposed a new solution while the horror of mass shooting is still being experienced. The Uvalde Texas shooter killed 19 children in an elementary school. Police waited nearly an hour to act. There was a shooting in Buffalo, New York that killed 10 people. The End of Killing is a graphic novel written by Smith.

Smith said that non-lethal drones can be installed in schools and other venues and play the same role that sprinklers and other fire suppression tools do for firefighters.

The founder and CEO of Axon laid out three "laws of non-lethal robotics" in a separate post. There was a requirement of rigorous oversight and transparency for participating agencies, as well as a commitment to arm drones with weapons that incapacitate rather than kill.

Smith said that the company would engage in a dialogue with the public before shipping any products.

Several of the people who are against the drone program are on the company's own ethics and advisory board.

Advisory board expresses “serious doubts” about Axon’s commitment to Taser drones

Hours after the release of the press release, the company released a statement from its ethics advisory board expressing serious concerns over the development of the drones. The board was presented with the drones last. The board voted against moving forward with the drone after carefully reviewing the benefits and harms. The company decided to reveal its plans anyway.

The board wrote that axon's decision to announce publicly that it is proceeding with developing Taser-equipped drones and robots to be embedded in schools and operated by someone other than police gives them pause. According to the board, the press release represents an expansion of what was discussed with them and did not address their many outstanding concerns.

Danielle Citron, a professor at the University of Virginia, said it was possible that some or all of the board could resign.

A lot of us don't want to be hasty and lose the chance to have an influence. Who is there if we all quit?

On Friday, Smith tried to address the company's tension with the board. Smith said the board was independent and advisory in nature, meaning it wouldn't have a say in product decisions.

Smith wrote that the board would not have control over the company's decisions. The board's purpose is to bring in police-skeptical view points and our company makes tools for police. If the board has governing rights over the company, we would have to make sure the board had a better balance of public safety views.

Smith said that the board disagreed with the CEO's decision to publicize plans around the drone but that he decided to move forward anyway, partly in response to the growing discussion around safety solutions following the recent tear of mass shooting events.

He wrote that he couldn't sit by and allow the conversation to happen only at the company.

Image for article titled Taser Drones Are the School Shooting 'Solution' No One Asked For

Civil liberties groups warn of disastrous consequences

Civil liberties experts agree with the board that placing weapons on drones in civilian settings is not a good idea.

Carl Takei, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in an interview that drones shouldn't be armed. It will be too easy for law enforcement to remotely deploy violence, including at protests and in the Black and Brown communities that already feel the greatest harms from policing, if drones with tasers are used.

In a previous interview with Gizmodo, Takei said that the mass deployment of less lethal weapons has increased police use of force.

The police are too quick to use tasers. Adding tasers to drones will only make it worse.

According to other experts, these types of drones could potentially put more school children in harm's way.

The executive director of the surveillance technology oversight project said that putting armed drones in schools is child endangering. I wonder how long it will be before a child with a heart condition is killed by a device like this.

Fight for the Future Director Evan Greer cited statistics showing hundreds of deaths attributed to the use of stun guns over the past 10 years.

Greed said that there are few people on earth more despicable than the people who sell software after horrible events. Children are less safe in a world with taser-equipped drones than in a world without them.

Fox Cahn warned of a future where these devices could be used to punish students or even political protesters.

Weaponized drones are not the solution to mass shootings, according to the author.

Smith revealed more information about his pet project during his Ask Me Anything posts. In a future where drones are sprinkled throughout schools and other areas like smoke detectors, the CEO envisions a place where the drones are placed. Smith suggested having the drones fly through the air.

Smith tried to address the fear that the drones would be used to suppress protesters. Smith suggested creating a centralized oversight committee made up of civil liberties and public safety experts, as well as requiring participating agencies to have public-facing policies about how their drones will be used. Smith suggested that the drones could be remotely disabled for violating the terms of use. Smith did not rule out the use of drones.

There could be instances where a remotely operated non-lethal system could be a better choice than today's alternatives.

Smith said he believed active shooters would have difficulty shooting down the drones because they were so close to a target.

Are Taser drones even legal?

It is not certain whether or not the proposed drones would be legal. The FAA warned the public that it was illegal to operate a Drones with dangerous weapon attached. The agency said that operating drones with weapons is against the law. Civil penalties for violating that rule can be as high as $25,000. Gizmodo asked the FAA for comment on the legality of the proposed stun gun.

Police use of drones isn't new. A suspect who was exchanging gunfire with law enforcement was killed by a bomb attached to a remote controlled drone. Several states have banned the use of armed drones since then. There would be a big change in the field with the introduction of the taser drone.

The idea of using armed drones in domestic law enforcement was endorsed by only one sheriff in Texas, according to Takei.

The experts don't think the use of drones in schools will solve the problem of mass violence.

Fox Cahn said it would be impossible to invent a more sinister villain than the flying robots that kill children. One of these drones would be the scariest thing to happen to me in school.