[hackerspaces] N.J. Assembly advances bill prohibiting sale of lasers used to point at airplanes

Martin Ling martin-hackerspaces at earth.li
Wed Sep 26 00:59:45 CEST 2012

On Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 09:47:14PM +0200, Georges Kesseler wrote:
> What the hell????
> A 5mW laser is inoffensive. even if you point it into your eye, and
> mostly invisible at long range.  The lasers pointed at airplanes are
> already illegal (100mW range).  So the bill won't change a thing,
> except making all CD players illegal :-)

A 5mW laser can in fact be quite offensive. The green 532nm types in
particular are much worse than a red 670nm laser of the same power,
because the human eye is far more sensitive to the green wavelength.

The spot it makes may seem rather weak at long range but in the dark, if
you are on the other end looking back it is very bright indeed. At night
it's quite sufficient to dazzle from a few hundred feet away, leaving
you blinking and trying to see where you're going for a few seconds.

Which is exactly the range that fucktards keep firing the things into
aircraft cockpits from - either near airports at airliners on final
approach, or at helicopters operating low over populated areas. Both are
of course the worst possible situations for the pilots to have to be
dealing with the effects in.

This is a very real problem that has been getting more and more common.
I know several commercial pilots who are quite legitimately concerned
about it. So you may disagree with this proposed measure, but at least
understand where the pressure for it is coming from.

While I agree that restrictions on sale won't eliminate the problem, I
can see why people think that it would help. Quite a number of idiots
have now been caught & prosecuted for aiming lasers at aircraft, and
routinely it's found that the pointer is a cheap one bought for an
easy laugh. These are lazy assholes doing this, not ingenious hackers.
In most cases, I doubt they'd bother if they couldn't just buy a cheap
pointer with excessive-but-not-extreme power off the shelf.

So there is going to be pressure to write laws like this. Probably many
of them will be passed. They may even help with the problem they're
aimed at. Let's be constructive, and identify how we can avoid them
having other unintended consequences.

Talking about "making CD players illegal" isn't helpful. If you actually
read the wording of the current bill you would see that a CD player
would be excluded from the definition in it, as would any other product
which doesn't have a beam coming out of it.

We need to list the legitimate uses and products that would actually be
restricted by this bill, and bring them to the attention of those
sponsoring it. The idea of using a pointable laser for anything other
than waving at a screen in a presentation probably simply hasn't occured
to them. Educate them.


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