Welcome to the United States, a country that will soon have a national registry for toy helicopters, but not for deadly machines used to commit horrifying mass murder on a near-daily basis. In fact, the United States has more mass shootings this year than days completed.
I understand the fear behind drones: “What if terrorists strap a bomb to it and fly it into a packed stadium?” Alright, seems a bit outlandish and unreasonable but the threat is there. It is hard to argue there is no threat with assault rifles, though. Of course “arm the good guys” is a saying many go by including myself, so why drones and not guns? Seems a bit silly to me.
The FAA’s new registration system, announced Monday, will require anyone with a drone heavier than half a pound to enter their name, home addresses, and email address into a form on the agency’s website. Registration is free for the first 30 days when it opens on December 21, and $5 afterward. After that, any unregistered operator risks civil penalties of up to $27,500 plus criminal fines of up to $250,000 and/or as many as three years in prison.
Instead of owning a drone used to take scenic pacific-beach pictures, I could move to New Hampshire and live near relatives. There I would be able to purchase and own an assault rifle with a high-capacity magazine—no registration or license required (Motherboard).
Meanwhile, only four US states currently have formal registration requirements for handgun owners, while only 12 states require a license or permit to own a handgun. My household has a gun and I am certainly not for the banning of guns, much like what Australia has done lately. Although gun deaths in Australia have plummeted, the culture here is much different and such a policy just would not work in the States.
Of course, there are very good reasons to doubt that any registration system can foil a determined criminal. But one would think if there was any rational basis for such as system, it would be applied to something that kills, on average, 36 people per day—not toy helicopters that might someday accidentally collide with a plane (which in many cases is much less likely than a plane colliding with a bird).
Gun enthusiasts (correctly) say the vast majority of gun owners are responsible, caring individuals. Drone owners—who, remember, aren’t operating machines that are regularly used to kill people in large numbers—do not.
There are various factors at play in this disparity. The FAA can regulate things that exist in public airspace, whereas an agency that might have authority over guns, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, wouldn’t have the same legal argument to unilaterally implement a national gun registry.
The idea here is relatively understood. The problem is that there is simply more political appetite for regulating remote-control helicopters than regulating weapons that are routinely used to murder large numbers of people.
Matthew is an Graduate MBA student at Indiana University. He is involved in data analysis, market research, and statistics. He enjoys reading, writing and community involvement.