Issue Report: Ban on laser pointers

Sould governments completely ban laser pointers?

In April, 2008, after a large increase in the number of laser pointer attacks on aircraft, the NSW Government in Australia banned laser pointers from anyone without a permit. The attacks on planes coming into land at Sydney Airport had been growing, caused pilots to vear from their flight path, and caused delays at airports. Laser pointers if aimed directly at low-flying aircraft’s pilots can temporarily blind the pilot, which is very dangerous. The NSW government hopes other states will follow it’s lead.

Using laser pointers dangerously was already illegal in NSW but obviously the law wasn’t working. Now it is illegal to be in possession of laser pointers unless you have a permit. Since the law has been in place, no laser pointer attacks on aircraft have been reported in NSW. One reason why the government decided to make possession of laser pointers illegal is because it is not hard to catch people with laser pointers but it is hard to catch criminals using them dangerously.

Problem: Are laser pointers currently a problem?

Laser pointers have the capability to bring down aircraft and cause major accidents

Laser pointers have the capability, if pointed at aircraft, to bring them down and cause major aeroplane crashes. Because of the large number of laser attacks on aircraft in April, 2008, it is justified to ban them.

Laser attacks are a growing threat to public safety

There have been an increasing number of dangerous laser pointer attacks on aircraft, which can temporarily blind pilots. In March, 2008, a particularly troubling coordinated attack came from four sources on an Australian rescue helicopter. The general manager of the Australian and International Pilot’s Assocaition, Peter Somerville, said, “With this latest incident, the level of organisation that has been demonstrated by the perpetrators means that I am sure those state governments will move and move quickly as they should. Previously, of course, we have just had single incidents but this represents a completely new level of threat.”[1]

Lasers have become more powerful and more affordable

Green lasers are more powerful and blinding to the human eye, and have become much cheaper over the years, dropping from prices of over $400 to around $50 more recently. This makes lasers more widespread and a greater potential threat.

Pilots support laser pointer ban for airplane safety

"Pilots back moves to ban laser pointers". The Age. March 31, 2008

Lazer pointers are used in attacks on motorists.

Lazer attacks are often waged to cause eye damage.

Laser attacks on aircraft are rare and offenders are charged.

Laser attacks on aircraft are extremely rare. There have never been repeated laser offenders because all offenders have been charged with an illegal offence and will never attack again. Most airports have never reported any laser attacks on landing aircraft and only a few (particularly Sydney Airport) have reported them, although they are rare and do not happen regularly. Pointing lasers at aircraft is the only problem caused by laser pointers and these issues are illegal and uncommon. Lasers are not a huge problem and do not pose an immediate threat to the safety of people.

Laser attackers must be exceptional shots to blind pilots

"Laser ban an 'overreaction'". ABC. 7 Apr. 2008

“vision experts say people using the lasers to distract pilots would have to be good shots to make the beam temporarily blind the pilot.”

Banning lasers mistreats technology, sets bad precedent

Movie visual effects designer Marco Nero said. “If you’re going to treat technology that way … you’re heading down the path to the Dark Ages.”[2]

Utility: Is there little usefulness to laser pointers?

The majority of laser pointers are for illegal usage.

Most laser pointers these days are purchased through the black market and are used improperly and/or illegally. They are not necessary for anything and are not needed for any reason. All laser pointers these days are unnecessary and most of them are used to cause trouble.

There is no practical use of laser pointers that can't be replaced.

Laser pointers are completely unnecessary and are not need in today’s society for any reason. All types of laser pointers can be replaced for legal, dimmer pointers and can still be used for the right reasons. These legal lasers cannot blind people and are not a danger to the public.

Scientists and researchers can be exempted from laser ban

"ACT Will Ban Laser Pointers". Photonics (Australia). 11 June 2008

“The Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus, has announced that from July 1 this year anyone seeking to import powerful laser pointers will be required to have an appropriate exemption. Certain professional, technical and scientific groups, including astronomers, academics and surveyors, will be exempt.”

Laser pointers are in popular demand.

Laser pointers are in very popular demand and sell easily at dear prices. Most people don’t use them dangerously and they do have many uses. They are most commonly used to project light onto points in a business presentation. They are convenient to have for all sorts of reasons and in dim light they can easily be pointed to things. They are commonly used for many different reasons and their only use is certainly not just pointing them at landing aircraft.

Scientist that frequently use lasers oppose a ban

"Laser ban an 'overreaction'". ABC. 7 Apr. 2008

“News analysis Australian scientists have attacked the federal government ban on importing high-powered laser pointers as using a ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’.”

Amateur astronomers use lasers to align telescopes.

Amateur astronomers use lasers to give lectures.

Lasers are used by astronomers to point into the night sky and give astronomy lessons.

Laser pointers are an important tool for lost hikers.

Lost hikers can use lasers to signal to airplanes for help. Banning them would eliminate this important safety tool.

Business people use lasers to give presentations.

Laser pointers are used in many movies.

Laser pointers are used by photographers and tour guides

to point out flowers and animals at night.

Punishment: Is jail time a suitable punishment for laser pointer use?

News:Pilots welcome jail time for laser offenders

The crime is very dangerous.

People using laser pointers inappropriately (eg. pointing them at low flying aircraft) is a serious problem. Pointing laser pointers at pilots temporarily blinds them and can cause the pilot to lose control of a low-flying aircraft and crash, killing many people. In places like Sydney, laser pointers have been a huge problem. Pilots have agreed that jail is a suitable punishment for improper use of laser pointers and it is. The use of them can cause serious accidents and that is why the NSW Government has banned them.

Possessing a laser pointer does not necessarily mean using it dangerously.

Just because someone has a laser pointer, does not necessarily mean that they are going to use a dangerously. Most laser poitners are used sensibly. Jail time is not a suitable punishment for someone in possession of a laser pointer, if they use the laser pointer sensibly and responsibly, not causing any trouble.

Jail time is okay, but not up to 14 years in jail.

Currently in NSW, anyone caught with a laser pointer and without a permit can get a sentence of up to 14 years in jail. That is not a suitable punishment for not even doing anything dangerous. That is unfair.

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