Armed drones could be the answer to taking out school shooters when police can’t – or won’t – act, the boss of an Arizona-based tech company said.
Mounting tasers on remote-controlled drones could stop shooters like the 18-year-old loner who killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, claims Rick Smith, founder and CEO of body camera and Taser maker Axon. Uvalde police have been criticized for not going into the school sooner to take out the killer, who was eventually fatally shot by a border patrol agent.
“We need different, better solutions, including ones that leverage technology to protect our schools, teachers and students,” Smith wrote in a company blogpost.
Smith, whose company builds both tasers and drones for the U.S. military and other buyers, said the technology for both has improved to the point of offering a solution.
“Put together, these two technologies may effectively combat mass shootings,” he wrote. “In brief, 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: Preventing a catastrophic event, or at least mitigating its worst effects.”
The issue of how to stop mass shootings has broken down once again over partisan lines, Smith noted. Conservatives believe the answer is arming teachers and hardening schools as targets. Liberals believe the answer is new gun-control measures.
“We need different, better solutions, including ones that leverage technology to protect our schools, teachers and students,” he wrote.
Not everyone agrees. In a response by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Matthew Guariglia wrote that giving police armed drones for dire situations will lead to them using the devices for non-lethal situations.
“Armed drones would mission-creep their way into more every-day policing,” Guariglia wrote. “We must oppose a process of normalizing the arming of drones and robots.”
Police tasers have killed more than 500 people since 2010, Guariglia wrote, citing a 2021 USA Today report.
“Police will be more likely to use this kind of force if the entire process feels like a video game—if they can send tens of thousands of volts through a person’s body with the push of a button far removed from that person,” Guariglia wrote. “And the person at risk of being tased might not hear the drone’s commands or may be confused by the presence of a floating robot.”
The failed response by Uvalde police has come under increasing fire as an emerging timeline shows they waited outside the school for over an hour, even as desperate children phoned 911 for help.
“The decision to establish a perimeter outside the classroom, a little over five minutes after the shooting began, shifted the police response from one in which every officer would try to confront the gunman as fast as possible to one where officers treated the gunman as barricaded and no longer killing,” The New York Times reported. “Instead of storming the classroom, a decision was made to deploy a negotiator and to muster a more heavily armed and shielded tactical entry force.”