Taser maker offers stun gun drones to stop school shootings – The Register | Hot Mobile Press

Rick Smith, founder and CEO of bodycam and taser maker Axon, believes he has a way to reduce the risk of schoolchildren being shot by people with guns.

No, it’s not about restricting access to guns, which Smith dismisses as politically unfeasible in the US. Nor is it about relocating to one of the many countries where school shootings rarely, if ever, occur and – coincidentally – have laws restricting access to guns.

Here’s a clue – his answer refers to Axon.

Smith’s proposal involves assembling his company’s occasionally deadly taser [PDF] on drones, based on the premise that remote-controlled stun drones do what the Uvalde police haven’t done – intervene to stop a gunman (and they’re almost always men) from murdering minors with assault rifles and the like.

Cropped handout of the Axon drone

Axon’s Taser drone concept… Click to enlarge

In a post published Thursday on the Axon website, Smith points to advances in drone technology and “non-lethal” energy weapons (they are sometimes lethal) and how the American public can benefit from the synergy between the two.

“Taken together, these two technologies could effectively combat mass shootings,” Smith speculates. “In short, non-lethal drones can be installed in schools and other locations and play the same role as sprinklers and other firefighting tools do for firefighters: prevent a catastrophic event, or at least mitigate its worst effects.”

Smith is aware of how this suggestion comes across.

“Of course, I appreciate the risks of such a proposal, and I know that it may sound slightly ridiculous to some,” he continues. “So we must start with a caveat: we cannot introduce something like non-lethal drones into schools without rigorous debate and legislation governing their use.”

However, Axon has skipped the rigorous debate stage, announcing “it has officially begun development of a non-lethal, remotely operated TASER drone system as part of a long-term plan to end mass shootings and reiterated that it is committed to public engagement and.” dialogue during the development process.”

“Today, the only viable response to a mass shooter is another person with a gun,” Rick Smith said in a statement. “After these events we are stuck in fruitless debates. We need new and better solutions. That’s why we chose to publicly engage communities and advocacy groups and develop a remote-controlled, non-lethal drone system that we believe will be non-lethal and will be a more effective, immediate, humane and ethical option to kill innocent people protection.”

Smith acknowledges the need for rigorous debate while dismissing the debate as “fruitless.” While those who feel like chatting, Axon moves ahead.

EFF Policy Analyst Matthew Guariglia published a response to the Axon proposal. He rejects the idea, not because it’s ridiculous, but to encourage the proliferation of armed drones.

“For many, many reasons, this is a dangerous idea,” Guariglia said. “Armed drones are increasingly creeping into everyday police work. We must resist a process to normalize the armament of drones and robots.”

Guariglia argues that this leads to mission creep as technology intended for casual law enforcement use is used in more and more situations. He points to how cell tower simulators (“stingrays”) designed for use on foreign battlefields are used for minor law violations, and how Amazon Ring doorbell cameras have expanded police access to surveillance video.

Armed drones would creep into the everyday life of the police. We must oppose a normalization of the armament of drones and robots

in the a statement The Axon AI Ethics Advisory Board, released Thursday, said the idea of ​​a taser-equipped drone was brought to the board a year ago, considered and eventually rejected.

“Axon’s decision to publicly announce that it is proceeding with the development of Taser-equipped drones and robots to be embedded in schools and operated by someone other than the police gives us significant pause,” the advisory board said . “Reasonable opinions may differ on the merits of police-controlled Taser-equipped drones – our own board of directors disagreed internally – but we are unanimously concerned about the process Axon has followed in relation to this idea of ​​drones in school classrooms.”

Smith, however, dismissed the concerns of Axon’s AI Ethics Advisory Board — which includes Jennifer Lynch, the EFF’s Surveillance Litigation Director — as readily as he dismissed the need for a debate.

He answered countered the board’s scolding on Twitter by calling for a broader discussion – perhaps because the board’s internal discussion did not produce the desired result.

“I understand and agree with the concerns of the board; there are many questions we need to answer to ensure these systems are designed for maximum safety and with equity in mind,” he said. “That’s exactly why I decided to go public: to broaden the discussion with many stakeholders.”

And so he got involved with the internet community. Smith hosted a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) discussion on Friday, answering questions from skeptics while trying to garner support for his cause.

Here is an example:

Smith continued to answer more questions, undeterred by those unconvinced by his arguments.

Axon Enterprises shares fell about 1.4 percent on Friday. ®

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