Electronic Weapons: July 12, 1999


TALK ABOUT, BUT NOT TO FAR. Millions of civilianized walkie-talkie radios (on the Family Radio System) have been sold to Americans. They can be found in discount stores, chain stores, and even office supply stores. Businessmen use them at trade shows, warehouse crews use them to take inventory, hikers and bikers use them to stay in touch, deer hunters use them to circle their prey, and parents use them to keep track of children in shopping malls. The small radios, almost toys in their look and feel, have become ubiquitous across the country. But therein lies the rub. The Family Radio System exists only inside the US, where the FCC set aside 14 frequencies for this system for civilian use. Other countries allocate those frequencies for other uses, and some countries ban civilians from owning two-way radios at all. American tourists are warned not to take their FRS radios with them abroad unless they check in advance to see if their destination countries will allow them. Some countries simply tell you not to use them, others confiscate them (temporarily or permanently), while some (e.g., Syria, Russia) might jail foreigners found with two-way radios. --Stephen V Cole




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