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Oklahomans concerned about unmanned aircraft attend state Capitol rally

Nearly 200 people attend a rally Saturday at the Oklahoma Capitol in Oklahoma City to support Oklahoma House Bill 1556 by Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, that would place regulations on the use of drones in the state.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: February 23, 2013 at 10:14 pm •  Published: February 24, 2013

Joanne Francisco, one of several people who came to a state Capitol rally Saturday with a face mask, said the encroachment of government on her 4th Amendment right to privacy, such as the possible use of drones to spy on individuals, is a growing concern.

“Government is getting too intrusive, nosy,” said Francisco, of Tulsa. “How do we know when our rights have been infringed upon? We can see a peeping Tom outside our window, but we can't necessarily see when we're being spied on by a drone.”

Amie Stepanovich, legal counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center and an expert in government surveillance and the use of drones, told a crowd of nearly 200 that it's estimated about 30,000 drones will be flying in U.S. skies by 2020 for a variety of purposes.

“Privacy is a nonpartisan issue,” said Stepanovich, whose Washington, D.C.-based group is a public research center. “It's for all of us.”

There is a high risk of abuse in the use of drones, she said. The federal government is using them now to patrol America's borders. Drones, which are unmanned aircraft, come in all sizes, from as small as a hummingbird to as large as a commercial airliner.

Amanda Teegarden, executive director of Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise, urged those attending the rally to call lawmakers to support a bill that would regulate the use of drones in the state. House Bill 1556, by Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, would, among other regulations, require law officers, absent an emergency, to obtain a warrant first before using drones for surveillance purposes and prohibits the state from outfitting drones with weapons.

Committee hearing

The House of Representatives Energy and Aerospace Committee is scheduled to hear HB 1556 at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. This is the last week for most bills originating in the House to be heard by House committees.

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