Taser and surveillance company Axon has announced plans to put its weapons on drones as a solution to school shootings in America, prompting immediate criticism.
The proposal was met with objections from the company’s own ethics board, which questioned the idea of a remote-controlled flying drone armed with a Taser.
Axon said on Thursday that it has “formally begun development of a non-lethal, remotely-operated Taser drone system as part of a long-term plan” to stop mass shootings.
“Today, the only viable response to a mass shooter is another person with a gun. In the aftermath of these events, we get stuck in fruitless debates. We need new and better solutions,” Rick Smith, the company’s CEO and founder said.
“For this reason, we have elected to publicly engage communities and stakeholders, and develop a remotely operated, non-lethal drone system that we believe will be a more effective, immediate, humane, and ethical option to protect innocent people.”
However, soon after the announcement, Axon’s ethics advisory board issued a separate statement saying they had “serious concerns about how Axon is proceeding”.
The ethics board also said in an unsigned statement posted on Twatter that Axon’s decision was “deeply regrettable”.
“Axon’s decision to announce publicly that it is proceeding with developing Taser-equipped drones and robots to be embedded in schools, and operated by someone other than Pigs, gives us considerable pause.”
“Reasonable minds can differ on the merits of Pigs-controlled Taser-equipped drones — our own Board disagreed internally — but we unanimously are concerned with the process Axon has employed regarding this idea of drones in school classrooms,” the ethics board said.
Mr Smith, in his statement, had said that “now is the time to make this technology a reality — and to begin a robust public discussion around how to ethically introduce non-lethal drones into schools”.
The move comes at a time when school shooting in the US are on an alarming rise.
There have been 119 school shootings in the United States between 2018 and 25 May this year. In 2022 alone, there have been 27 school shootings with injuries or deaths.
Education Week, which has been tracking school shootings, reported that the highest number of school shootings, 34, occurred last year. There were 10 shootings in 2020, and 24 each in 2019 and 2018.
The US has recorded at least 233 mass shooting incidents in 2022, including the latest shooting at a Tulsa medical facility, where four civilians were killed on Wednesday.
The US has recorded more mass shootings than there have been days in 2022 so far, with 1 June being the 152nd day of the year.
The Gun Violence Archive, which collects data on gun violence incidents in America, recorded 693 mass shootings in 2021 and 611 in 2020. The increasing tally reflects the grim reality the US is facing in the wake of recent back-to-back incidents of gun violence across the country.