What the FAA Regulation of Drones Can Teach Us About Gun Safety

A water collecting drone with it's three containers and collection tube is silhouetted by the sun at a testing site in Lincol
A water collecting drone with it's three containers and collection tube is silhouetted by the sun at a testing site in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. A team led by Nebraska university scientists has won a federal grant to further develop aerial drones that could hover over and sample water from lakes, ponds and streams that people can't easily reach. The team have already developed a drone that can collect and carry three samples. They'll use the USDA money to perfect algorithms to improve its safety and reliability. The drone is tethered by a pink rope per FAA rules. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

This week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced its plan to require registration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones). This decision is a textbook example for how government should exercise its authority to regulate potentially dangerous activities with devices that can do harm.

For years, the FAA has had the authority to regulate the flight of unmanned aircraft including radio controlled model aircraft and drones, but has chosen not to do so to avoid a burden on those who operate these aircraft safely. However, with the proliferation of drones in recent years, and the increasingly unsafe and illegal operation of those drones in the vicinity of major airports risking thousands of lives, the FAA has decided that it will begin regulating unmanned aircraft by requiring registration of all devices INCLUDING drones and model airplanes.

The registration requirement is to enable law enforcement to more easily identify and catch irresponsible drone operators when they fly them illegally. The pilot community, represented by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) strongly supports this decision, because it improves safety.

There is a lesson to be learned here, and demonstrates how a civilized society should actually respond to a danger to public safety.

In the case of drones, idiots flying near airliners and athletic events risk a collision which could easily cost human lives and millions of dollars in potential losses. Even though there are thousands of people flying drones safely, there are a few of said idiots acting irresponsibly; therefore, the government must now step in to protect the public safety. And, at least so far, there isn't anyone from the National Drone Association or a member of the Congressional Drone Caucus screaming that this requirement is the first step in drone confiscation. Additionally, the vast majority responsible drone pilots, while maybe not liking this new requirement, understands and supports its purpose of protecting the public safety.

In the case of gun violence in this country, we can take a lesson from this move by the FAA. Over 30,000 Americans are killed every year by gun violence, yet the NRA and politicians in their pocket continue to block simple, common sense measures that could save a large number of those lives. In the face of growing gun deaths, especially mass public shootings, isn't it long past time for our elected leaders to exercise the same kind of common sense to protect the public safety from idiots with guns?

It's the role of representative government to protect the public safety. Of the millions of responsible gun owners, there are a relative few who cause gun violence. That doesn't mean, though, we should just stand there doing nothing. It also doesn't require confiscation of all guns. It does mean, though, that we should certainly implement universal background checks, hold all gun owners responsible for violence committed by their guns (especially by children), place limits on lethality of certain weapons, and keep guns traceable, so we can find and hold the idiots responsible to protect thousands of lives.

Let's learn a lesson from the FAA's action on drones. We're way overdue for a little common sense to be injected into the conversation about gun violence, and long past time for actual responsible gun owners (I'm one) to start speaking out.