Web-controlled guns are illegal

Friday, January 21st, 2011

According to the Augusta Chronicle, a utility contractor passing through a Georgia Power Co. right-of-way stumbled across an Internet-controlled network of Web cameras and shotguns. He reported it to the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, which in turn notified the U.S. Office of Homeland Security:

The bulletin, circulated by the Office of Homeland Security, said the guns were trained toward a food plot, and that their likely intent was for hunting in an area known to be infested with feral hogs.

Melissa Cummings, a spokeswoman for the Wildlife Resources Division, said an investigation was opened after the photo was brought to the agency’s attention.

“The guns and setup were not located during subsequent follow-up patrols in the area,” she said in an e-mail responding to questions about the case. “Capt. Jeff Swift has since talked with the property owner, Jay Williams, who stated that the firearms setup was still in the developmental stage and had not been deployed at that point to shoot any animal.”

Cummings said the landowner also told officers his intent was to develop the system as a remote-controlled hog-control device.

“Since then, Mr. Williams has sold the property,” Cummings said. “The system has not been seen since.”
No charges were filed in the case, but authorities say such technology is dangerous and could be used in other situations.

Despite the alarmist tone of the article — and of the io9 article that led me to it — it wasn’t clear to me what was so alarming, or illegal, about shotguns set up on the owner’s land to shoot animals eating his crops. They weren’t automated.

It turns out that so-called Internet hunting launched a panic a few years ago, so any web-controlled guns are now illegal in most states:

The first paid hunt is scheduled to occur on April 9 [2005] on a ranch outside San Antonio, and many are racing to stop the practice before it gets started. The dispute is raising new ethical questions over what is an appropriate form of hunting, and represents another example of the unlimited possibilities of the Internet and the sometimes public pressure to limit it.

Even the developer of the new online hunting website, Live-Shot.com, says the system is not for everyone. John Lockwood envisions it being used by those who love hunting but are unable to get out into the woods, such as the wheelchair-bound. “The idea of hunting this way doesn’t appeal to me,” says Mr. Lockwood. “Most of us love getting into the field. But there are many that cannot.”

Under the system, a person can control a camera and a firearm, shooting at real targets in real time, from a computer anywhere. For an additional fee, the meat or head can be shipped to the hunter.

Lockwood says the idea evolved out of knowing and working with disabled hunters as a young man. The first person to sign up to hunt through his website is Dale Hagberg, a paraplegic from Ligonier, Ind. Mr. Hagberg says he broke his neck in an accident almost 18 years ago and has only been able to watch hunting on TV.

On the other hand, “It’s pay-per-view slaughter,” according to Michael Markarian of the Humane Society.

While I can agree with Safari Club president John Monson that “this is not hunting,” I’m not sure it’s any less humane. If the deer population is starving and miserable, culling it remotely should work just as well as culling it the old-fashioned way. I see no additional pain and suffering.

A more recent Internet hunting fact sheet from the Humane Society states that the practice has been banned in 38 states, including Georgia. (Is killing feral pigs on your own farmland hunting?)


  1. Not to mention that this particular technology would solve both the Somali pirate problem and the Santa Barbara panhandler problem.

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