A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: FAA bill mandates quarterly reporting of laser incidents and prosecutions; increases civil penalties

On July 15 2016, President Obama signed the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016. One of the provisions provides funding for the agency to report four times a year to Congress about the following:

  • the number of laser pointer incidents reported to FAA
  • the number of civil and criminal enforcement actions
  • the resolution of any incidents that did not result in a civil or criminal action
  • any actions taken to help deter laser pointer incidents

In addition, the maximum civil penalty that FAA can impose was raised to $25,000. It was formerly $11,000.

U.S. Government Printing Office. The full text of the laser pointer provisions of the Act is below (click the Read More… link).
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US: NY senator wants FDA to ban green laser pointers

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) on March 15 2015 called for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop the sale of “high-powered” green laser pointers. He cited the danger to aircraft pilots. The step appears to have been triggered by the report of three pilots going to hospitals for eye injuries on March 9 2015 in the New York area.

Schumer made the announcement at a Sunday press conference in his Manhattan office, along with four commercial airline pilots who had been illuminated by laser light. One pilot, Gabe Rubin, said he knew of a pilot who “suffered severe eye damage from a green laser pointer [and] will never fly again.”

Schumer said “Green lasers are the weapons of choice being used for evil purposes. We know terrorists are always looking for areas of weak points.”

He is focused on green pointers because they are apparently preferred by pranksters because the green light travels farther, and “because the light spectrum of green is more easily absorbed by the retina and then causes more damage”, according to the senator.

In 2012, Schumer wrote a letter to the U.S. FDA saying that laser pointers’ power should be less than the current 5 mW limit, that FDA should restrict more powerful Class 3B (5-500 mW) and Class 4 (500+ mW) lasers, and that FDA should require warning labels about aiming at aircraft.

From Newsday and CBS New York. The text of Sen. Schumer’s press release is below (click the “Read more…” link).
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US: Ophthalmalogist calls consumer lasers "weapons", asks Congress for law

USA Today reports that “a leading ophthalmologist and retinal specialist” called high-powered consumer lasers “weapons; powerful weapons that can cause very severe damage and blindness. They are much more powerful than anyone appreciates.”

The October 7 2014 story was a follow-up to an incident at an NFL football game on October 5, when Buffalo Bills players complained of lasers being aimed at them during a game with the Detroit Lions. The NFL and police were said to be investigating.

USA Today’s Martin Rogers wrote that Dr. Robert Josephberg “has lobbied members of Congress for more than a year to discuss criminalizing intentionally dangerous use of laser pointers, to no avail. Josephberg told the newspaper that intentional shining of a laser at someone should be a felony: “There has been a significant increase in medical journals of reports of blindness caused by the lasers. The use seems to be increasing – and so does the power and availability of the pointers. Congress needs to take note.”

In a February 28 2011 story in the New York Times, Josephberg recounted how he saw a high-school student who had a blind spot from a 50 milliwatt green laser pointer. At first he did not believe that lasers were available that could cause such an injury. But he bought a 100 milliwatt laser for $28 online; Times writer Christine Negroni said “he could hardly believe how easy it was.”

A June 2011 article in the magazine of Westchester (NY) Medical Center, where Josephberg works, quoted the doctor as saying “I contacted new Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth of the 19th Congressional District, who is an ophthalmologist herself. We are working with her, trying to write a bill that addresses this problem.”

From USA Today, the New York Times and ”Health & Life” magazine from Westchester Medical Center

US: Retina specialist says laser pointer crackdown needed to avoid serious injury

“Swift action” is necessary to prevent serious injury from high-powered laser pointers, according to Dr. Robert Josephburg, a retinal specialist at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla N.Y. A Yahoo Sports story says that Josephburg warned Congress about the danger, although no specifics of the warning or date were given.

The Yahoo Sports story noted that laser pens are often misused by European soccer fans. In late February 2013, two world-famous players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, were targeted during a pair of games.

Pic 2013-03-29 at 7.45.47 PM Pic 2013-03-29 at 7.45.55 PM
Ronaldo (left) and Messi, illuminated by lasers during matches between Real Madrid and Barcelona

Josephburg told Yahoo Sports that athletes could be especially at risk, since lasers could cause serious damage from an exposure of a few seconds. He said “If I was a ball player I would be terrified. I only hope that Congress acts on this before some real harm is done.”

Lasers with powers of over 50 milliwatts are dangerous, Josephburg said, and can have serious effects almost immediately. The only effective deterrent is to punish possession or use of high-powered pointers, according to Josephburg: “There is simply no need for a regular person to have one of these.”

From Yahoo Sports

US: Obama signs bill making aiming laser pointers at aircraft a federal crime

President Barack Obama signed a bill on February 14 2012 which contains a provision making it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft, or the flight path of an aircraft. This new law is contained in Section 311 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (H.R. 658).

Violation can result in a fine and/or imprisonment up to five years. The bill does provide a few exemptions for research and development, flight testing, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security. The only exemption for ordinary citizens is when “using a laser emergency signaling device to send an emergency distress signal.”

The laser pointer misuse prohibition becomes part of the United States Code; specifically, Title 18, Chapter 2, new section 39A: “Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft”. The text of the new law is here.

From AVStop News

US: Senate bill S. 1608 introduced to help move laser pointer legislation

U.S. Senate Bill S. 1608 provides penalties of a “substantial” fine and/or jail time of up to 5 years, for aiming laser pointers at airplanes. The legislation was introduced September 22 2011 by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Republican from Rhode Island. The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A news report on WPRI said Whitehouse introduced this as a standalone measure. In February 2011 Whitehouse had proposed the same provisions as Amendment 8 to S. 223, the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act which passed the Senate February 17 2011. Because House action on FAA funding was held up, Whitehouse decided to re-introduce the measure as its own bill.

The House version is H.R. 386 introduced January 20 2011 by Rep. Daniel Lungren, Republican of California. The House bill also provides a penalty of a fine and/or up to five years in prison. It was passed by the full House on February 28 2011.

It is likely that S. 1608 will successfully pass in the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate. If the bill is identical to H.R. 386, then the legislation would be sent to the President for his approval and signature. If the bill differs from H.R. 386 -- for example, if amendments are added -- then a House/Senate reconciliation committee would meet to work out the differences, in advance of sending a single piece of legislation to the President.

From WPRI.com. S. 1608 can be tracked on GovTrack.us; as of September 25 2011, the text of the bill has not yet been posted.

US: Reporter discusses how U.S. Constitution covers laser pointers

A Washington Post reporter discusses the question “Which part of the Constitution governs the use of laser pointers?” He says the answer is a “legal loop-de-loop” where Congress states it is acting against lasers in order to protect ‘commerce’.”

Writing on Constitution Day, September 17, David Fahrenthold frames the issue to illustrate a new House of Representatives rule requiring every bill to reference it’s Constitutional authority.Click to read more...