Sen. Charlie Scott Says Shotgun Is Good Way To Deal With Annoying Drones

Sens. Charlie Scott and Lynn Hutchings on Wednesday said there should be a provision in the drone bill that would allow a landowner to shoot down drones that are trespassing over private property.

Mark Heinz

January 19, 20233 min read

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Landowners who feel violated by drones should be allowed to shoot them down, says at least one Wyoming state lawmaker. 

“I thought maybe a shotgun would be an appropriate legal weapon to take a drone with,” said state Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper.

He made his that remark during a senate floor discussion Wednesday afternoon regarding Senate File 34, which deals with drone trespass.

The bill, which passed its first reading in the Wyoming Senate, should include a provision allowing landowners to “take” trespassing drones, Scott said. 

In rural areas where it would be safe to do so, that should include shooting them down, he said.

Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, agreed that would be “practical.”

“What can we do? They (drones) can fly away, where can you go with that?” she said, adding there should be a provision “so that the landowner can net it, shoot it down, whatever.”

No action was taken on that suggestion. 

But there should be time to work provisions into the bill moving forward, said Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper. He chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which forwarded the bill to the Senate earlier Wednesday. 

Other provisions could include exceptions for people operating drones for commercial or public safety purposes, such as inspecting power lines, he said. 

Cowboy State Daily Illustration by Greg Johnson

Language Too Vague? 

There was some concern that SF 34 as written is too broad and vague. 

In another state, similar regulations say drones can’t be used for unauthorized surveillance or to interfere with a person’s reasonable expectations of privacy, said Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne. 

However, those terms could themselves be too broad, and it wouldn’t be wise to include them in Wyoming’s drone trespass law, said Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne. 

“I could run a truck through any of these terms as a lawyer, and lawyers will,” she said. 

The core language of the bill as written should allow for prosecution of egregious violations, while leaving enough room for professional drone use or people making the mistake of unintentionally flying drone over private property, Nethercott said. 

Room For Innocent Mistakes

Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, said it’s important for the bill to allow enough leeway for innocent mistakes, such as youngsters who are just learning to fly drones. 

Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, also said he’d like to see some of the wording of the bill clarified. 

As it reads now, SF 34 makes it sound as if trespassing “is OK, as long as you’re sneaky enough to not get caught.” 

Wyoming’s criminal trespass law hinges on the principle of somebody deliberately going into or staying on property that’s been posted, or after they’ve been asked to leave, Nethercott said. The same basic principle could be applied to drone trespass. 

Sen. John Kolb, R-Rock Springs, said a drone trespass bill is needed, because some people are using drones for nefarious purposes, such as “casing” properties for burglaries. 

He agreed that the existing parameters that Nethercott described should work, including in urban settings. 

“I don’t mind if they slip over (a back yard) by accident. But if they hover, that goes beyond the pale,” Kolb said. 

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter