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US: New Jersey governor vetos bill to ban laser pointer sales

A bill to ban the sale of laser pointers over 1 milliwatt, passed by the New Jersey legislature in August 2013, was vetoed on October 17 2013 by Governor Chris Christie.

In his veto message, Christie noted that the New Jersey bill would have gone “well beyond” the federal government’s 5 milliwatt limit for laser pointers. He said there was no criminal use of lasers between 1 and 5 mW in New Jersey. Christie indicated the bill was “arbitrary” and interfered with lawful commerce of pointers typically used in business presentations. (See full text below, after the “Read More…” link.)

The bill was first submitted in November 2010, in response to ongoing problems in Ocean City, N.J. and other beach resort towns where widespread laser pointer sales in boardwalk shops were leading to harassment incidents and aircraft illuminations. The bill, A3169/S418, passed the state Senate on August 19 2013 by a vote of 36-1. It had previously passed the General Assembly on June 24 2013 by a vote of 70-7, with one abstention.
From Bloomberg. The bill’s passage in August 2013 was covered in this LaserPointerSafety.com article, which also references additional previous articles on the topic. Thanks to Leon McLin for bringing the Bloomberg article to our attention.

Related LaserPointerSafety.com news stories about Ocean City and New Jersey laser troubles

Below is the full text of the Governor’s letter to the Senate, describing why he vetoed the bill:

October 17, 2013

(Second Reprint)

To the Senate:

Pursuant to Article V, Section I, Paragraph 14 of the New Jersey Constitution, I am returning Senate Bill No. 418 (Second Reprint) without my approval.

This bill prohibits the sale of laser pointers that exceed one milliwatt in output power. Current federal regulations allow for the sale to consumers of laser pointers with outputs up to five milliwatts.

Presumably, the purpose of this bill is to deter the dangerous misuse of laser pointers. State and federal lawmakers, however, have already acted to prevent that misconduct. For example, New Jersey has enacted stringent penalties that criminalize aiming laser pointers at any vehicle, including an airplane. These state criminal penalties impose strict punishment of up to five to ten years in prison for a second-degree offense where the act causes serious bodily injury. In addition, federal law imposes criminal penalties for the dangerous misuse of a laser pointer, including fines, and up to five years in prison. Together, these existing state and federal criminal penalties are an important deterrent to the dangerous misuse of laser pointers.

This bill, however, goes well beyond the federal standards and would ban a whole class of one- to five-milliwatt laser pointers currently for sale at office supply stores as well as by the largest online retailers in the United States. Indeed, this legislation would ban the sale of one of the most common classes of consumer laser pointers, which are not typically used by criminals, but by business professionals to deliver presentations. Tellingly, the Legislature points to no instance of this class of laser pointer being used by even a single criminal in New Jersey.

For these reasons, placing the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs in charge of enforcing sales restrictions that exceed federal standards is not likely to deter dangerous conduct, but instead will interfere with otherwise lawful commerce within New Jersey. The criminal laws already protecting New Jersey residents from the dangerous misuse of laser pointers would not be bolstered by an arbitrary one-milliwatt sales restriction that is inconsistent with federal standards.

Accordingly, I herewith return Senate Bill No. 418 (Second Reprint) without my approval.

/s/ Chris Christie

/s/ Charles B. McKenna
Chief Counsel to the Governor