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US: Maryland "Laser Safety Act" passes House, goes to Senate

The text in blue, below, is from a press release sent March 26 2012 by Maryland State Delegate Sam. Arora. It has been slightly edited to re-arrange a few sentences.

UPDATE, November 20 2012: The bill did not pass. According to Arora, it “passed the House of Delegates in March [2012] but ultimately failed to reach a vote in the state Senate during the final hours of the regular legislative session, when a budget showdown between the two chambers effectively killed scores of bills that were scheduled for votes.” It was reintroduced in November 2012, as discussed in this story.


Bill Would Punish Shining Laser Pointers at Pilots in Flight

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- A measure aimed at curbing a dangerous trend targeting aircraft passed the Maryland House of Delegates Monday afternoon and now will head to the state Senate for approval.
The bill, the
Laser Safety Act (HB 130), sponsored by Maryland State Delegate Sam Arora (D-Montgomery Co.), seeks stiffer penalties for people who shine laser pointers into aircraft cockpits, potentially blinding pilots in flight. The Act would carry a penalty of up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Current law only permits for a $500 fine for “misuse of a laser pointer”.
Del. Arora’s bill is modeled after legislation recently passed in other jurisdictions in response to this phenomenon. At least a dozen states and many more local jurisdictions have enacted laws against offensive use of laser pointers. In 2010, Ocean City passed an emergency law banning laser pointer sales to and possession by minors and barred most outdoor use of laser pointers.
“Laser pointers, especially the green ones, are surprisingly powerful and also cheap,” Arora said. “They can blind pilots in flight and create truly dangerous situations. We are working to protect our first responders and make air travel safer with this bill.”
In addition to flashblindness, a laser strike in an aircraft cockpit can cause disorientation and eye injuries for the flight crew. In recent years, first-responder pilots throughout Maryland have been temporarily blinded while conducting searches or conducting medevac flights, including high-profile incidents in
Montgomery County, Mt. Airy, Baltimore County [incidents: 1, 2, 3], Carroll County, and Wicomico County.
The Federal Aviation Administration reports that laser-related incidents affecting aircrafts are on the rise and
increased 85% between 2009 and 2010 (the last year for which data is available) to over 2,800. In 2011, 63 laser-related incidents in Maryland were reported to the FAA, including eight strikes against Maryland State Police helicopters.
Contact: Del. Sam Arora, 240-245-0018, sam.arora@house.state.md.us