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US: UPDATED - Maryland bill reintroduced to raise fines on pointer/aircraft misuse

Maryland state delegate Sam Arora and state senator J.B. Jennings in November 2012 re-introduced a bill to raise fines for persons convicted of laser pointer misuse. The fines would rise from $500 at present, to up to $2,500 and up to three years in prison.
The text in blue below is from Arora’s website. The paragraphs have been rearranged slightly for clarity.

From Del. Arora’s website, with news stories from WTOP radio and WJZ Baltimore. Thanks to the FDA’s Daniel Hewett for bringing this to our attention. LaserPointerSafety ran a story in March when this bill was initially introduced.

UPDATED May 7 2013: The bill passed the House 139-0 on February 14 2013, and the Senate on April 5 2013. It was signed into law by Maryland’s governor on May 2 2013 and takes effect October 1 2013. A LaserPointerSafety.com story is here.

The proposal is identical to one previously introduced by Del. Arora that 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.

The Arora-Jennings bill is modeled after legislation recently passed in other jurisdictions in response to the laser pointer 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.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports that laser-related incidents affecting aircrafts are on the rise and increased nearly 300% between 2008 and 2011. In 2011, 63 laser-related incidents in Maryland were reported to the FAA, including eight strikes against Maryland State Police helicopters.

“Today’s run of the mill laser pointers are widely available and dangerously powerful,” Del. Arora said. “They are blinding pilots and creating life-threatening situations. We have an opportunity here to make flying Maryland’s skies safer for everyone."

In addition to flashblindness, a laser strike in an aircraft cockpit can cause disorientation and eye injuries for the flight crew. In February 2011, pilots flying a 50-ton Southwest Airlines jet with more than 130 people on board were blinded during landing at BWI by a green laser. They managed to safely land the jet before being rushed to the hospital with eye injuries.

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 (multiple incidents: 1, 2, 3), Carroll County, and Wicomico County.