29 July 2013

Is Deer Trail's Town Council On The Verge Of Committing Treason?

Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies; giving them aid and comfort.
- United States Constitution, Article III, Section 3, Clause 1 (1789) (in the pertinent part).
The small town of Deer Trail, Colorado is considering a bold move. The town board will be voting on an ordinance that would create drone hunting licenses and offer bounties for unmanned aerial vehicles.
Deer Trail resident, Phillip Steel, drafted the ordinance.
“We do not want drones in town,” said Steel. “They fly in town, they get shot down.”
Even though it’s against the law to destroy federal property, Steel’s proposed ordinance outlines weapons, ammunition, rules of engagement, techniques, and bounties for drone hunting.
The ordinates states, “The Town of Deer Trail shall issue a reward of $100 to any shooter who presents a valid hunting license and the following identifiable parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle whose markings and configuration are consistent with those used on any similar craft known to be owned or operated by the United States federal government.” . . .
If passed by the town board, Deer Trail would charge $25 for drone hunting licenses, valid for one year. . . . 
Deer Trail resident, David Boyd, is also one of seven votes on the town board.
“Even if a tiny percentage of people get online (for a) drone license, that’s cool. That’s a lot of money to a small town like us,”said Boyd. “Could be known for it as well, which probably might be a mixed blessing, but what the heck?”
The board will consider the drone hunting ordinance on Aug. 6.
If shooting down drones operated by the federal government under color of law and at the behest of a duly constituted government doesn't constitute levying war against the United States, what does?  Indeed, simply voting to pass such an ordinance could constitute a declaration of war on the United States and hence an act of treason.  And, I know of no precedent that affords immunity from prosecution to acts of treason proclaimed in an official capacity.  This was certainly not believed to be the rule during Reconstruction, immediately after the U.S. Civil War.
The fact that anyone would even consider such a clearly illegal ordinance is an example of what I call the sovereignty of the group.  Deliberative bodies with more than about three members tend not to be very reliable at conforming themselves to external constraints on their actions and the larger the deliberative body is, the less reliably it does so.
From a practical perspective, the question is how to undermine the legitimacy of this kind of activity that is meant as much in jest and as a symbolic act, without spurring sympathy from like minded people.  The Federal Aviation Administration, for example, has issued a statement making clear that this law is unconstitutional on its face.  Even if a treason prosecution were authorized by law, for example, it might not make sense to bring one without far more negotiation and opportunity for Deer Run to back down.

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