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US: South Carolina to ban laser pointer possession by minors

Possession of lasers over 1 milliwatt by minors would be illegal, under a proposal introduced February 26 2013 in the South Carolina House of Representatives. On April 18 2013, H. 3609 passed the House by a vote of 81 to 8.

The bill was introduced by Representative Liston Barfield. He represents Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, resort towns which have been plagued with incidents of laser pointer harassment by youths and others. In 2012, there were more than 70 area incidents where laser pointers were aimed at aircraft, including Coast Guard search-and-rescue operations that were abandoned due to fear of laser exposure.
H. 3609 would amend Chapter 1, Title 39 of the South Carolina 1976 Code to make it illegal to sell a “laser device” to a minor under 18. Violations would be misdemeanors, with a fine of up to $400.

In addition, minors under 18 “may not purchase, attempt to purchase, possess, or attempt to possess a laser device”. Violations are a non-criminal offense subject to a civil fine of $25, and the laser device “must be confiscated.” There are five exceptions:

a) lasers used as an emergency signaling device to send an emergency distress signal,
b) lasers used solely for legitimate educational purposes
c) lasers used for legitimate business purposes during the normal course of the business
d) lasers solely necessary for the minor’s employment, education, trade or occupation
e) lasers used as part of a lawfully-used gun sight.

According to a news report, the exemption for gun sights was added because Rep. Brian White “said he didn’t want the measure to prevent his three daughters from buying a laser scope for his rifle as a Father’s Day gift.”

In the bill’s preamble, laser pointers are defined informally as “small, handheld devices, usually battery operated, equipped with a laser diode emitting a very narrow laser beam of visible light, intended to be used to highlight something of interest by illuminating it with a small bright spot of colored light.” The text of the bill defines a laser more broadly as “a device that utilizes the natural oscillations of atoms or molecules between energy levels for generating coherent electromagnetic radiation in the ultraviolet, visible, or infrared region of the spectrum, and when discharged exceeds one milliwatt continuous wave.”

From IndependentMail.com and the South Carolina General Assembly legislative history of H. 3609