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back to article Aussie gov to treat laser pointers like knives and guns

An Australian regional government has moved to crack down on laser pointers following widely-reported incidents in which the devices have been used to distract and dazzle pilots on commercial flights. New South Wales (NSW) will class the most powerful types of pointer as if they were firearms, with sentences of up to 14 years …

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Anonymous Coward

The biggest tragedy...

...is the inevitable, endless debate among Reg commenters on the practicality of laser blinding. Anybody want to do an over/under on this? I'm gonna say more than 65 by midnight GMT.

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Gates Horns

Sooooo close to a good idea...

... and then they spoilt it with stupidity.

Green lasers controlled - good idea. Low powered red lasers vaguely controlled and we might or might not accept your reasons for having one - stupid idea.

Bill - because he's spoilt good ideas with stupidity more often than most.

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Anonymous Coward

Already a problem

A bloke was sent to prison in the last few weeks for using a laser to dazzle a helicopter coming into land at the London Heliport at Battersea. It seems there are idiots on both sides of the globe..

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Flame

@ A.C & Red lasers

Nice to see the A.C's posting.

Can I presume that you've never been dazzled by one of these things whilst you've been driving, along a busy motorway, with your family in the car?

I have, and believe me the expression "brown trouser time" is most appropriate. (Some little scumbag was standing on a flyover, more than close enough with a 'red' laser)

Personally, I think the Aussies are right on with this one.

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Anonymous Coward

@Already a problem

"It seems there are idiots on both sides of the globe.."

Except that our idiots were selectively bred from your idiots.

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Anonymous Coward

Well...

...Considering that the Red lasers are capable of causing damage to the eye with prolonged direct exposure, the greens are FAR worse. So regardless of how they're being used, they should still be regulated. Perhaps not by licenses, but similar to how knives are controlled. Say...18+ from a licensed vendor.

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Aw bloody hell

That means that .gov.uk's going to follow suit, and I'll get locked up for showing off my kickass floppy-disk-burning-Laser-armed Dalek.

More annoyingly, I can see the sense in these new laws and actually agree with them.

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Anonymous Coward

@ dervheid

You're projecting, old chap. AC "Sooo close..." wasn't saying red lasers shouldn't be controlled, but that they should either be controlled with definable parameters or not controlled.

I have to admit that this is the first time I've heard of "normal" red laser pointers being used for dazzling mischief, and to some relief that I'm somewhat protected by my deficient colour vision from being so dazzled.

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Coat

It's not that

a green laser is more powerful than a red, it's that the human eye is more sensitive to the green wavelength (also water vapour in the air effects red more)

Where I live I am more worried about a concrete block passing through my windscreen (thrown from from a motorway bridge) than a laser pointer being pointed at me

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Gold badge
Coat

Lesser lasers.

Actually, when you get to the red lasers, you can get just as effective a dazzling effect with one of the larger maglites turned to "spot" at closer ranges.

There will now be a brief pause while the Australian Police Force beats itself to death with its own maglites.

The one with the large Maglite in the pocket please. Yes, I do have a valid reason for having it, I'm carrying a torch for someone (paradiddle, ka-ching).......

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Paris Hilton

You know...

...I hear so much from Europeans (among whom I count Australians... yeah) about how people are attacking them in malls for no reason, dazzling them with laser pointers, and all manner of things, that I wonder how we escape such terror in the good ol' USA. I've only heard of one instance of a plane being 'dazzled' here, and that one wasn't well-substantiated. Are we too busy shooting and tasing each other here to have a nice underclass of hooligans screwing with us constantly?

Paris because that's the only icon with a question mark. First time I've used it, too - honest to god.

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@ AC & Rob C.

As has already been postulated in the article, likening 'Reds' to knives, I don't see where catagorising these together is not a 'definable' parameter.

ie, if you're caught with one in public, you will have to justify carrying it, in court, and face the consequences of failure to do so. Which for the "law abiding majority" who don't posess one, unless it's built into a DIY tool of some description, shouldn't be a problem. With regards to your "deficient colour vision", obviously I don't know how bad it is for you, but it's more likely to be an inability to discern between colours, rather than to a lack of response to the intensity of the lightsource (if you try staring at the laser diode in the bottom of an optical mouse, for example, can you see / be dazzled by that?)

Rob, I sympathise with you fully on the concrete block scenareo, I just figure that an iddy-biddy laser pointer is easier for yoyr average scumbag to conceal (internally if required) unlike aforementioned concrete block, if pehaps they are a tad easier to come by (blocks, that is). Although I'm sure we could experiment on the internal concealment of concrete blocks on said scumbags!!

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Joke

Obligatory reference...

"Charles, get the laser-pointers, we're being f***ed."

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red lasers in DIY tools?

What about the lasers you get in DIY tools these days? My circular saw has one to help guide you... spirit levels have them these days... so many things do... you telling me all these DIY tools will be illegal?!

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Coat

Now, can we ban calling them "pointers"?

Or at least the red ones which don't generally have a visible beam.

Imagine the full-stop below is a shiny red dot.

Apple . Pear

Does it point to Apple or Pear?

Neither -- it's a dot. It has no direction. IT CAN'T POINT!

Ergo, it is not a pointer.

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TIme to bin my Bluetooth mouse then...

So, I will have to have a valid reason for carrying the laser pointer built into my Bluetooth presenter mouse will I? Someone had better tell Microsoft that they are selling overt instruments of terrorism!

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Joke

@Rob Crawford

let's ban concrete blocks, too

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Flame

Concealment

"..I just figure that an iddy-biddy laser pointer is easier for yoyr average scumbag to conceal (internally if required) unlike aforementioned concrete block, if pehaps they are a tad easier to come by (blocks, that is).."

They conceal the concrete blocks in overhead bridges. Ban bridges I say.

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Black Helicopters

Lasers

Lasers are already covered by law, and causing damage/dazzling is a lot more complex than most people think.

http://www.scitec.uk.com/lasers/lasers_ordering_laserpointers.php

http://msds.chem.ox.ac.uk/laser_classification.html

http://www.prolaser.co.uk/news02a.html

Most pointed are less than class 3B

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Silver badge
Linux

Dazzled

Either I'm just off the mark or there are lots of sad, sad people in this world who can be dazzled by something as common as a laser pointer. I mean, don't get me wrong, I've been dazzled before, mostly from really nice looking women, but a few times from the bourbon too. It's hard for me to be dazzled by pretty flashing lights anymore - I suppose I've lost my innocence...just like Mommy said I would.

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terrorists listening?

if this is causing significant problems to aircraft then perhaps they ought to protect themselves. I know in an ideal world we would punish the wrong-do'ers rather than forcing legislation on the airline companies, but they could very effectively fit their windscreens with wavelength selective blocking films. And yes I cam aware that you can't block all wavelengths or it'd go dark, but it wouldn't be hard to get rid off just 633 and 532nm.

suprised this is just mischeif so far, wonder if there's a terrorist application. many countries have banded about the idea of tanks capable of blinding entire battle fields of troops despite the geneva convention.

anyone ever shone one in a cctv camera, temporarily saturates the ccd rendering it useless, more mischeif.

what we need now is rear facing lasers on the back of my car to get that fool in his bmw off my tail.

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Guns don't kill people; people do

With idiot laws like this, I'm beginning to see the point of the gun lobby's argument. I'm no fan of the gun lobby, and I can't see any justification for carrying them (there's no "legitimate" use for a gun), but banning laser pointers is daft. Go after the people who misuse them, not the product which can, in some rare occasions, be misused.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmmmm.....

The more I read stories like these, the more I think that 'third world' punishments like cutting peoples hands off aren't as stupid as they sound.

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"Pointers"

@Anonymous Coward: Go to your mouse settings and replace your mouse pointer with a dot. My guess is, you'll still be able to point at things on your screen. ergo, it's still a pointer, dot, arrow, aeroplane, dragon, whatever.

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Coat

@red lasers in DIY tools

I suppose if you are walking through a mall waving a circular saw at people then you might have a wee problem with our armed guardians whether or not a new law is passed.

And then there's the safety issue of that very long extension cord trailing behind you.

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Rob
Paris Hilton

@ImaGnuber

reminds me of that flymo scene in peter jackson's classic film, braindead

Paris, as she'd want to start a "save the sumatran rat-monkey" fund

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Boffin

People are the problem

Banning the lasers just means that the idiots will find some other source of amusement - throwing rocks off bridges for example. And what will the gov't do then - ban rocks??

The imbeciles who do this are the same ones who, a year or two ago, were scribbling with spray paint on the subways. And a lot of it is in parenting and schooling. Teach parents to be good parents and half the problems go away. Properly fund schools, so teachers are not overworked and can spend a little more time and energy on the few kids who will benefit from it most. And so on...

And give the kids something fun and cheap to do with their spare time - gyms with interesting sports, skateboard parks, movie theatres, computer game clubs, after-school jobs, whatever. But keep them interested in something, and they won't need to find their own sources of amusement...

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Anonymous Coward

stupid

Why not just make it illegal to dazzle pilots with them instead of making them illegal. you know like the way its legal to own a car but not to run people over with it.

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Anonymous Coward

@red lasers in DIY tools?

Well, I imagine if you are walking around with a power tool you will probably be stopped, laser or no laser.

who the hell came up with laser pointers anyway? why do we need to indicate things from 100 feet away? Bring back pointy sticks.

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Black Helicopters

lasers

The blinding part is not so much the light directly into the eyes as the diffusion/diffraction of the light hitting the windscreen which is dirty and full of scratches. It's rather like driving directly into the sun on a nice, bright day. I recommend using a strong laser on certain body parts to make sure they don't breed more idiots. I have to agree with the "lasers don't kill people, people kill people" chain of thought on this. Banning them only punishes the normal law-abiding who got one to tease the neighbour's cat. I for one welcome our laser-toting lizard overlords.

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Flame

@Already a problem

Be sure to start legislation banning possession of rocks then, as any moron could have dropped one through your windshield from an overpass. There are many instruments that can cause harm... Instead of over-sanitizing society, can't we just enforce existing laws? Perhaps instead of a total ban for the ultra-high powered laser pointers, you should have some kind of education-permit process, which would weed out the assholes and idiots, and perhaps prevent some fool from losing a retina as well. In the US, you need an EPA permit to purchase freon (to ensure safe handling of this substance proven to do damage to the ozone layer), why not the same for any laser over a certain mW range?

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Joke

@ pointy sticks

Pointy sticks is where ALL the fucking trouble started anyway!

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@ Chris Bradshaw

"Banning the lasers just means that the idiots will find some other source of amusement - throwing rocks off bridges for example. And what will the gov't do then - ban rocks??"

I said the same about the imitation gun ban. I would rather have a mugger point a toy gun at me and me be scared, than him point a knife at me.

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I own an illegally powerful laser

I think the point that they're being used by morons is a significant issue. Perhaps we should ban anyone from purchasing a knife since they have dangerously pointy bits which are capable of puncturing human flesh and have been used for this purpose in the past.

Its a tool. I have a power more powerful than is allowed by UK law, several times more powerful than the maximum safety level in milliwatts. I feel as an ubergeek it is my right and duty to own such a thing. I would never shine it in someone's face or lend it to someone who would.

I wish they'd start punishing idiots and stop making legislation to ban a neutral item like a laser. Its a cop-out. Where cops have to do more, maybe they should call it a cop-in.

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Gates Horns

@dervheid

I totally agree with you, though personally I suggest a deep sea swimming lesson (with an anvil leashed to their ankle) as a more interesting option.

In my part of the world there has been several very severe injurys and a death on the one section of road alone (one of which is less than 100 meters from a police station). I don't understand how they manage it.

If goverment have to ban laser pointers then surely theu also have to ban the 15M candle power lamps too (came across one guy who had 2 sitting in his rear windscreen to dazzle people who didn't turn off full beam on country roads).

Almost anything is dangerous in the wrong hands <SIGH>

Personally I believer that most of us could manage more damage with a pen or pencil than the average terrorist with a box cutter. Happily very few of us are that unleasant.

It's all Bills fault today

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Thumb Down

Coming soon...

Now that guns, swords, knives, and laser pointers have been banned... The government will move on to banning rolled up newspapers.

"The suspect was caught today carrying a rolled up newspaper. Police believe the intent was not to actually read the paper, but to swat someone on the behind....."

How many more ridiculous laws do we need? All this banning of items does not change one simple fact... These items do not commit crimes - people do.

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Anonymous Coward

Lets learn to live without them

When I am on a flight, I am a hoping and a praying that everything go smoothly. Last thing I need is some little shit-head impressing his boyfriends by shining laser pointers at planes. If it takes a ban on pointers to stop the little turds, good. I mean, while life be so hard without laser pointers in it? Surely society won't crumble with laser pointers done away with. I think I am old enough to remember a time when lasers pointers weren't around. I sure my pappy and my grand pappy didn't have no laser pointers when they was young-ens. They managed to live life and prosper in an era without laser pointers and if it means safe roads and skies, I would like to live without the pointless devices myself. (pun intended)

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Coat

BS

Have you ever watched commercial pilots fly? They actually have real working autopilots. It's not like they are in F15's. (Try keeping your pointer on the cockpit of one of those.) Pointing a laser at a car is probably 10X worse. But it just doesn't have as much of a 9/11 - terror vibe. I've never been blinded by a laser pointer, but I have had to stare at 1234234789213 headlights, eaten a few rocks kicked up by trucks etc.

They're not going to triangulate and find the person blinding a pilot. What they will do is pull you over for fitting the wrong profile, then harass or arrest on carges for everything they find in your car that you could ever possibly use do to something mean. Why is this any different then a pair of scissors? There are probably at least a few actual real assaults/injuries each year due to hammers, forks, fists and flashlights.

....mine's the one with the dazzling reflectors on it.

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Pirate

@ Richard Neill "No legitimate use for guns" - bullshit

Just the other day I walk outside to see why my dogs are going nuts. Cue two neighbor's bulldogs running full tilt after me. Absolutely no way to make it anywhere safe in time. If I hadn't had a gun, I'd be dog food.......

And no, I didn't kill them. Several rounds in the gravel caused enough noise and stinging rock fragments to send them packing.

Don't bother with kack about mace/pepper spray and etc. Try hitting a dog in the face.

You want to put a stop to it? All I have to say is we have ordinance that can follow a laser......

Mine's the one with the built in holster........

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Stop

banning is *not* the answer

enforcement of laws against crimes *is*.

Owning a laser pointer or device of any wattage=good

using it for any criminal act=bad

banning it because it could possibly cause a crime=even worse.

But, this from the same country that banned guns, and the crooks went to crossbows. So they banned those, and crooks moved to swords. So they banned those, and now it's laser pointers.

Banning did nothing but make the law abiding suffer more, and make the criminals jobs easier. "Home invasions" were almost unheard of a few years ago, and are now the almost the most common violent crime.

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And all this time I thought Australia was a dangerous place.

Hey Australia;

A fork can be a dangerous weapon at lunch time.

A spoon can be sharpened.

You'll put your eye out with chopsticks.

Fingers carry salmonella.

There should be some limit to wimpification.

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Boffin

The green heuristic

Green may not be a more inherently damaging color, but having the higher-powered lasers be green does make a good heuristic for knowing how carefully to treat them.

There are green lasers in use at my workplace (a heavy manufacturer) for measurement purposes. When they were installed, we were warned that if you stuck your hand in the beam, the resulting injury would be "like a bad sunburn". I can only imagine what they would do to an eye.

(I wonder if you could get an extra-powerful red pointer through Australian security, though, on the grounds that "only the green ones are dangerous".)

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Someone forgot to say...

Sharks with frikkin' laser beams ;)

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Linux

If you make laser pointers criminal...

then only criminals will have laser pointers!

Tux, because he knows that legal access by the good, law abiding people helps keep them on a footing with the thieves and pirates.

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Coat

@You know...

" I wonder how we escape such terror in the good ol' USA"

probably because the hoons can have much more fun with fully automatic assault rifles.. ;-)

[the bullet proof one please]

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@ BS, John Stepp and others

fer crissakes you idiots. It's dangerous because the galahs that are doing this have, amongst other things, been targeting passenger aircraft making landing approaches at Sydney and Darwin airports. Not a good time to have both pilot and co-pilot unable to see the instruments, controls, or the approaching runway marker lights. 100+ deaths as the result of some PFY casually leaning out a window waving his latest internet-purchased toy into the sky is a real possibility. Banning probably isn't the answer, but compulsory licensing for devices over 1mW may be the way to go.

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Paris Hilton

holes in the proposal big enough to walk through

I noticed that there was an exemption for cat owners who like to use the pointers as some kind of tech ball of wool to keep their cats busy.....

... Paris cause I reckon she wrote the damn thing

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Anonymous Coward

@ PaulD

"I noticed that there was an exemption for cat owners who like to use the pointers as some kind of tech ball of wool to keep their cats busy....."

If this law to stop the harmful use of lasers was ever introduced in the US I'm sure one of the exemptions would be use of the laser as an aid in aiming a rifle.

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To those comparing to rock throwing...

You are all forgetting this is the NSW government... Morris Iemma doesn't know how to handle things if you can't just ban it.

My thunbs go down to the NSW government. I had planned on buying a high power laser to build a home made laser etching/cutting device... I guess I have to find out how to get a permit first now... And I'll bet it means doing a test, having a(nother) criminal record check and paying huge wads of cash into Mr Iemma's budget tin.

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