COLUMBIA, SC | Will South Carolina become the latest state to ban military drones in its airspace? If the latest vote on the issue from the statehouse is any indication, the answer may be a resounding “yes.”
The House of Representatives in Columbia voted unanimously to ban the use drones by government agencies in the Palmetto State without a warrant. The bill passed the House on a vote of 100 to zero. House Bill 3514 now goes on to the State Senate.
The use of drones by government agencies would be prohibited, except in cases where such use would be “pursuant to a criminal warrant issued by a court of competent jurisdiction.”
It was sponsored by Republican Representatives Hamilton, Delleney, Putnam, Taylor and Loftis. Supporters, which include the ACLU, believe passage with support from both major parties show the growing concern over the use of drones in the United States.
The nation’s largest civil liberties group stated “unregulated drone use could pose serious threats to our privacy.” (1)
Lawmakers expressed concern there may be cases where using a drone could be a matter of life-or-death. The bill includes exceptions which could be called upon in these situations. If drones are used, law enforcement agencies will be required to keep careful records of their use. Any personal information obtained through such surveillance would have to be destroyed, unless it related to an ongoing investigation. These include photographs of innocent individuals. The bill also effectively bans mounting weapons to drones.
The proposed law further restricts agencies, by requiring them to win the approval of a local governing body, before purchasing such specialized equipment. These can include city councils or the state legislature. Ryan Alphin, director of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association, stated his group is not yet taking an official position on the bill.
Private groups, including businesses and colleges, would still be allowed to possess and operate drone aircraft for their own use.
Dan Hamilton, the main sponsor of the bill, said “We’re really just updating our laws to keep up with some of the technology. The technology is changing rapidly. A lot of these companies that have sold them for use overseas are now marketing them domestically. I think, before things get out of hand, that we put a box around it and make they’re being used in the way they should be.”
Similar bills have already become law in Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and Idaho. The bill now goes on to the Senate Judiciary Committee. There, it must pass by a majority vote, before being sent to Governor Haley.
Amanda Bowers, national outreach director of the Tenth Amendment Center, said “From California to Washington State, and from New York to Missouri, legislators and the general public from left to right want to see a dangerous future stopped before it happens.”
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