Animal Rights Fly Camera in Front of Firing Gun

Let’s see, there’s an event happening on private property that requires shooters to fire at flying targets. So what do animal rights activists decide to do? Fly a camera into the shooting field where guns are going off. The results are predictable.

Police say a protester’s remote control helicopter was damaged by gunfire at a Pennsylvania pigeon shoot.

(h/t @bergerjd)

35 thoughts on “Animal Rights Fly Camera in Front of Firing Gun”

  1. The law regarding this should be interesting, should the owners of the helicopter choose to pursue it.

    As an almost totally ignorant layman, my guess is that the drone helicopter had every legal right to overfly the property (as much as that pisses me off) and that damage to it will be subject to a claim for civil liability, even if the club argues that the shooting was somehow “accidental.”

    But if I’m wrong, that will be even more interesting.

    1. Also a layman, but the finding may depend (at least partially) on whether the ‘copter was owned by an “official” agency (local PD, Fed, etc.) or a private one. If it’s a private organization (or an individual protester’s device), it may or may not have a legal right to be there. Also, “common sense” would dictate that sending a flying object into an area where people are shooting at flying objects is asking for trouble, but these days I don’t expect the courts to uphold anything resembling “common sense”.

      As an aside: “Investigators estimate the cost of the damage at $4,000.” Was this a “drone helicopter”, or a $100 remote-control helicopter with a $100 digital camcorder taped on? There’s a “subtle” difference, but with no pictures posted, you can guess where I’d bet.

      1. Also, “common sense” would dictate that sending a flying object into an area where people are shooting at flying objects is asking for trouble, but these days I don’t expect the courts to uphold anything resembling “common sense”.

        IANAL*, but there is a legal doctrine called “assumption of risk”. It’s why you can’t sue if you go to a baseball game and get nailed by a pop fly – that’s a known risk at a baseball game, and you assumed that risk by going.

        OTOH, if this was accidental as claimed, there was a bit of a Rule 4 violation, because I somehow doubt that the helicopter was anything that could easily be mistaken for a pigeon. Be sure of your target.

        * I am not a lawyer. I am not qualified to give legal advice, and nothing I say should be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, ask a lawyer. If you do take legal advice from some guy commenting on the internet, you probably deserve what you get.

        1. OTOH, if this was accidental as claimed, there was a bit of a Rule 4 violation, because I somehow doubt that the helicopter was anything that could easily be mistaken for a pigeon. Be sure of your target.

          I agree. I do not believe it was a rule 4 violation and nor do I think the shooter did anything illegal. I think the guy DID know what his target was and if it were me, that camera-on-a-copter would be just as dead.

          1. I don’t want to go too far with our jailhouse lawyers’ debates, but I don’t think it’s a question of whether the shooter did anything illegal; I think it would be a question of civil liability.

            I’m sure this is a bad analogy, but if someone parked a car on our club’s property, and they were trespassing, we could have it removed, but if we shot it full of holes instead, we’d be liable for the damage — I’m pretty sure.

            1. That’s a horrible analogy.

              It’s more like someone coming bursting out of the woods on an ATV trying to put himself between the shooter and his targets during an active competition.

              Still, even that isn’t a good analogy because we’re only talking property damage, not physical injury.

              The fact remains that the drone had absolutely no right to be there, that they were aware they had no right to be there, and that they actively used the drone to interfere with the shooting activities.

              Of course it got shot down. The right to shoot criminal trespassers should not be limited to biological organisms.

        2. It could be accidental and not a Rule 4 violation. Shot doesn’t just stop in mid-air at the target and fall to the ground. Mitigating factors:

          1. It’s small, and hard to see, and might be mistaken for a either a real helicopter a safe distance away, or it might not even be noticeable to a person shooting at a bird because they are concentrating on the target.

          2. The people shooting are near loud noises, and have hearing protection, so they might not hear it.

          3. There is no expectation that aircraft, manned or not, will violate the airspace of the range.

          1. Rule 4. Be sure of your target, what is near your target, and what is BEHIND your target.

            Because you’re right, shot (or a bullet) doesn’t just stop in mid-air at the target and fall to the ground.

            Those mitigating factors you listed are certainly all valid points, but it’s still the shooter’s responsibility to verify that the range is clear and the target is valid for every shot.

            That being said, and knowing a little bit about the history of this particular group, I have to agree with Tango – it was probably an “accident”, not an accident.

  2. IIRC, this particular set of animal rights folks have been harrassing members of this shooting club for years. They follow the shooters, video-tape them. Video-tape their homes and families, publish their addresses, etc.

    1. I think that when it came to involving my family, that would be a game changer. A nice polite conversation with them about protecting my family would be in order.

  3. What a heart warming story. We actually made it a crime to interfere with legal hunting and trapping in Iowa.

    1. We’ve had a similar bill making the rounds for the last few years, but it has largely taken a backseat to more important measures.

      We have limited resources to pro-gun and pro-sportsman bills through, so bills like our Castle Doctrine enhancement bill (HB40/Act 10 2011) take priority.

      This year we lobbied mostly for the elimination of PICS (Pennsylvania Instant Check System) HB2127, preemption enhancement HB1523, and fixing PA’s firearm transport rules (they’re worse than NJ as a default) HB1668. We also worked to keep Constitutional Carry and disparity of force on the radar of largely pro-gun legislators, although we weren’t really pushing to move them (the latter especially in light of the whole Zimmerman/Martin affair).

  4. I hope that they keep this up. I think shooting at remotely piloted toy helicopters would be a lot more fun than shooting pigeons, so long as PETA and their ilk are picking up the tab. Plus, it establishes a “sporting purpose” for SAMS…heh.

  5. If it is a private, members only club then the copter would be trespassing IMO. Whatever happens to it is the trespasser’s fault, for all the shooter knew it could have had a bomb on it, it was self defense!

    1. More jailhouse lawyering, I admit, but I think you only own the space above your property as high as you are actually using it, i.e., as high as the tallest tree, structure, whatever. I guarantee that if you shot straight up into the air and hit a [real] airplane you could not claim that the airplane was trespassing.

      I’m just arguing from my normal pessimistic viewpoint which is, when it comes to law, things are seldom the way we think they ought to be.

      1. I see the point you’re trying to make, but it’s not really a good analogy.

        There’s a fundamental difference between an airplane flying over private property at an altitude of 30,000 feet (or even a small private plane or helicopter flying at an altitude of a few hundred feet) with the intention of just passing through, and a drone being piloted at under 100 feet over private property in order to harass the occupants of that private property.

        Generally speaking, I would argue that the former has an easement to travel over your property/through your airspace, while the other has no such easement.

      2. If your property is being used as a gun range for airborne targets, whether those targets are clays or pigeons, would it not be expected that you are ‘using’ the airspace above the shooting field up to the vertical range of the arms being employed?

        A quick and dirty internet search suggests that the vertical height of shot fired at a 25 degree upward angle will climb to about 700 feet. A near vertical shot could reach somewhere around (hand wave) 1500 feet.

        Another quick and dirty internet search suggests that a remote controlled aircraft that could fly above those altitudes would cross limits that would make it subject to FAA regulation.

  6. at one time your property rights extended into space. with the coming of aircraft this was changed to allow right of transit above 500 feet. with modifiers for the flightpath of a landing pattern, however tort damage to property is not the accepted response to trespass.


    1. Right of transit =/= using a remote-control aircraft to interfere with private activities and conduct illegal surveillance on private property you have no right to occupy, especially when you’re flying at less than 500 feet AGL.

    1. As with any anti-aircraft weapon, the requirement is to cause enough damage that the aircraft can no longer fly, and your challenge is that it is far away, small, moving quickly and able to dodge. I’d suggest birdshot, unless you want to show off and/or hit it at long range. Then you would need a relatively large round to do the requisite damage, traveling at a high enough velocity to have a chance of reaching the target before it moved out of the way. I would think your minimum would be a high-powered cartridge like .30-06 or .270 Win.

      Of course this is all table talk. I’d never condone shooting at someone else’s property, unless the drone were somehow offering you violence.

  7. I think people are focusing on the wrong thing by thinking of this as trespassing. I have to believe that using a remotely operated device to record events on someone else’s private property without the consent of those being recorded would have to violate at least the spirit of wiretap laws, if not the letter. I can’t imagine that it’s illegal to climb through my window and set a wireless microphone behind my sofa, but it’s not illegal to hover a toy helicopter carrying a wireless microphone outside my window with the intent of monitoring the same conversations.

    1. As stated by others, some old laws may apply, including that your r/c aircraft has to be in line of sight from your person, can’t rise higher than 500 feet AGL, and a couple others I’m blanking on right now.

      As for listening/recording, the general standard (IANAL) is that it’s okay to record what a person is doing if they’re doing it in plain view. The definition of plain view may depend on what sort of technology is widely available and routinely used. Security cameras come to mind.

      Between those two, drones are probably fully covered, though some caselaw will likely have to come about to nail down exactly what laws apply and when.

      1. It seems to me that this wouldn’t be the first time in history that new technology came to invite new legislation.

        Without giving it much thought, I’d propose legislation with ambiguous wording prohibiting “overflight that loiters or is intended as trespass, or is intended for surveillance, unless by public officials having obtained a search warrant for such purpose.”

        The “intention to trespass” could be the killer in terms of interpretation, but it does seem to be an issue that unavoidably demands very subjective judgements. The requirement for a search warrant would be to make any information obtained by public officials on neighborhood fishing trips inadmissible evidence, in criminal trials, and thus removed the incentive for fishing trips.

      2. A lot of McMansions I’ve been in have large skylights in upper floor bathrooms. Anything the homeowners do in those bathrooms is in plain view to a r/c aerial recording device to exactly the same extent as a private function taking place on a large property to which the controller of the r/c aircraft has been denied entry. Even if the aircraft stays in sight of the controller, it seems to me that recording events that you wouldn’t be able to witness personally is a pretty obvious violation of the privacy of the people involved in those events.

        I realize that common sense and the law frequently don’t intersect. I’m hoping that this is one of those rare cases where someone in the justice system will apply a little common sense to the way this technology is being misused and tell the animal rights nuts that they’re lucky all that got shot was their toy helicopter.

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