TRENTON — The New Jersey Legislature has approved a bill that would prohibit the sale of some laser pointers, with the state Senate passing it by a 36-1 vote today.
Lawmakers expressed concern about people aiming laser pointers at aircraft, potentially blinding pilots and permanently damaging their eyesight.
According to Assemblyman Nelson Albano (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland) one of the sponsors of the bill, Laser incident reports have increased steadily since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) created a formal reporting system in 2005 to collect information from pilots. The FBI and New Jersey State Police recently re-emphasized the dangers of pointing laser pointers at aircraft.
According to news reports, the FBI recorded more than 3,500 incidents of handheld laser pointers being aimed at planes in 2011, as opposed to just 283 in 2005. Just last week, authorities said they were reporting incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft headed for Newark Liberty International Airport.
“These incidents raise serious passenger safety concerns,” said Albano. “They’re unnecessary and we can help quell them with this simple bill to reduce the power of these laser pointers. Laser pointers can serve a legitimate need in the classroom and in business settings, but clearly in those cases we don’t need super-powered laser pointers that can put people at risk.”
Pointing lasers at aircraft can blind pilots and permanently damage their eyesight. Often times, pilots had to relinquish control of their aircraft to another pilot. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has called the laser incidents “an unacceptable risk to passenger safety.”
Albano’s bill would prohibit the sale of laser pointers that exceed one milliwatt in output power. Current federal regulations allow for the sale of laser pointers that have an output power of up to five milliwatts.
A person who violates the provisions of this bill shall be subject to a penalty of not more than $500 for the first offense and not more than $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
“This is common sense step toward improved safety for everyone,” Albano said. “We don’t want to see a tragedy because of a laser pointer, so this is the right thing to do.”
Laser pointers intended to be affixed to a firearm do not fall under the bill’s general prohibition.
The bill now goes to the governor.
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