While Kansas lawmakers could not agree on a statewide drone ban earlier this year, the state’s most liberal city wants to join a handful of other cities nationwide to ban the unmanned aircraft.
A coalition of Republican, civil rights and libertarian groups has joined with Kansans for Responsible Drone Use to push the Lawrence City Commission to enact a complete drone ban in city government. The move comes months after a bill to ban drone usage in Kansas did not come up for a vote in the state Legislature, following concerns that such a ban could hurt the state’s drone industry.
Ben Jones, a spokesman for the drone group, stated that while the Lawrence government has expressed no interest in buying and using drones, the group is pressing the ban as a precaution to prevent future use. Among the groups joining the coalition are the Douglas County Republican Party, the Douglas County Libertarians, and the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice.
“There are concerns about the growing use of drones domestically,” Jones said. “We wanted to get common sense precautions in place before it became widespread.”
Jones said that earlier this year, his group discussed a ban with the city commission, which agreed to revisit the issue after passing a budget, which occurred this summer. Among the issues the group is seeking is a ban on the city using drones until state guidelines are in place, on drone usage for surveillance and to obtain evidence, and on using weaponized drones, including those equipped to launch grenades or tear gas. Jones said the group supports allowing the city to use drones for emergency situations, including to combat terrorists and rescue hostages.
Lawrence Vice Mayor Mike Amyx and city Commissioner Jeremy Farmer both announced that the city commission is likely to discuss a ban soon. At the same time, they said they could not say if the commission would adopt such a ban. Amyx stressed the city does not own drones and there is no money in the budget to buy one, either for surveillance or to engage in combat.
Farmer said any drone ban would have to include a series of exemptions for emergency measures along with weather monitoring, assisting with accident investigations and helping the agriculture industry. But he said privacy precautions are needed.