April 02, 2014      

Update at 10 a.m. EST on APRIL 2, 2014: A small town in Colorado won’t be issuing hunting licenses to shoot down drones after all, according to the Associated Press.

Voters in Deer Trail overwhelmingly defeated a proposal Tuesday that would have authorized the rural community east of Denver to issue drone-hunting permits.

Town officials say 73 percent of the 188 votes were against the measure. Deer Trail has 348 registered voters, but officials say many of those are probably inactive.

It?s no April Fool?s Day joke. Voting is under way today on a bid to issue licenses to shoot down drones in a Colorado hamlet 55 miles from Denver.

The measure is before the electorate in Deer Trail, which has a population of 563; the town originally had hoped to have the vote last summer.

Town leaders say the tongue-in-cheek action shows the displeasure of residents and raises money through sales of permits.

The Deer Trail proposal would allow any adult holding a $25 hunting license and standing on private property to shoot at drones within the one-square-mile town limits. The measure sets a bounty of up to $100 for a drone with U.S. government markings.

Even if it were to be approved, the ordinance would be illegal, federal officials say. Anyone who actually shoots at one could be subject to criminal or civil liability, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Town Clerk Kim Oldfield said voting was steady after polls opened at 7 a.m.; more than 140 Colorado towns are holding municipal elections Tuesday.

Phillip Steel, a 49-year-old welding inspector, wrote the proposed law in 2013 as a symbolic protest after hearing a report that the federal government is drafting a plan to integrate drones into civilian airspace by 2015.

Steel was required to gather 19 signatures, or 5 percent of the registered voters in Deer Trail, to get the measure on the ballot; he turned in 23. Voter turnout is expected to be high, said Mayor Frank Fields. ?This could bring in some free money – that?s why I?m all for it.?

The proposal would allow town officials to spend as much as $10,000 in municipal funds to ?establish an unmanned aerial vehicle recognition program.?

The Deer Trail debate is the latest evidence of nationwide privacy concerns over use of camera-equipped drones, which can be as small as radio-controlled aircraft. Fourteen states have enacted laws and others are being considered in at least three others.

The FAA is responsible for the safety of U.S. airspace from the ground up, according to the government agency?s website; this stands in contrast to claims by some in Deer Trail that the sky is theirs above their property.

The FAA currently estimates as many as 7,500 small commercial drones may be in use by 2018, assuming the necessary regulations are in place, its website states.

Drones could be used to find missing children, monitor weather, provide disaster relief and other beneficial functions, their supporters say. Moreover, shooting them down would imperil those on the ground where the planes? debris would fall.