In a Hoover Institution essay a few weeks ago, the Brookings Institution’s Benjamin Wittes asked, “How long do we really think it will take before a gun enthusiast arms a remotely-piloted robotic aircraft with his favorite handgun (very doable by a competent layperson with a few thousand dollars to burn)?” He points at Lawfare today to a new YouTube video of a hobbyist who has mounted a paintball gun on a hobbyist drone. The paintball gun is impressively accurate, all things considered. I leave to Dave Kopel and other gun law experts here the legal ins and outs of whether an actual handgun mounted on a drone; my uninformed assumption is that it is illegal, indeed criminal, now; the YouTube video says repeatedly that a real weapon would illegal. I’m not a legal expert in this area (on Gun Appreciation Day, following Dave Kopel’s suggestion to consider supporting Second Amendment groups, I re-joined the NRA after several years of lapse from sheer inattention, but I don’t follow this area save international law issues such as the proposed arms treaty). However, I learned of this video from former Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey, at a conference that looked at what it called the gradual proliferation of “many-to-many threats,” including cyber, bio-weaponization, and certain aspects of robotics and autonomous robotic systems. “If this is what a novice with a small budget can accomplish,” the voiceover narrator says with understated ambiguity, “then clearly, this technology has a lot of potential.” Actually,from the standpoint of the individual gun-owner whose interest is self-defense, my guess is that this technology is pretty limited in its application, unless there were a considerable amount of automation introduced into the technology. It might be useful to home defense, I suppose, to send a drone rather than sending yourself, but it might turn out to be more useful to several attackers, one of whom controls a drone that comes at an individual gun-carrier from several directions. A lot in that case depends on where the automation of the system might go. Given all those contingencies, I think it will be peripheral at most to self-defense and almost certainly illegal.
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