How a simple toy can become a dangerous weapon

Laser pointers come in many shapes, sizes and colours; they are dazzling instruments that people love to play with.  From Star Wars to Star Trek, laser pointers have an imaginative appeal to people, but can that appeal become a legal issue?

Reports have shown that there were over 450 incidents regarding the improper use of lasers in 2013. Photo by Cody Hoffman
Reports have shown that there were over 450 incidents regarding the improper use of lasers in 2013. Photo by Cody Hoffman

In Canada like many countries abroad, legislation has been made to tackle the growing concern regarding consumer grade laser pointers and the dangers they pose to society. As of 2011, legislation regarding the improper use of laser pointers is categorized under the Canadian Federal Aeronautics Act. As per the act, the maximum sentence that can be opposed is a fine of up to $100,000 and up to five years in jail. It sounds scary because it is. A CBC article states that in the last few years Canada has seen an increase in laser related incidents regarding aircraft and pilot safety since 2012.

According to reports by the CBC, many pilots have been angered by the idea of laser pointers and the risk it poses to their job. As planes come in and go out their low altitude makes them an easy target for laser pointer strikes. These strikes are not only troubling to delicate instruments within the cockpit, but also pose serious risk of harming the pilots. A simple thing such as aiming for a plane may seem like fun and games, but the outcome could lead to grave tribulations.

Reports have shown that there were over 450 incidents regarding the improper use of lasers in 2013, according to an article posted on the official laser pointer safety website.  That number is without counting all the incidents that occur without police intervention. People do not contemplate that laser pointers pose a serious risk to aircrafts today. If anyone were to aim a laser in someone’s eye they would know the effect it has on their vision. Now imagine that effect applied on an aircraft where the beam can possibly enter and bounce around the cockpit of an airplane or helicopter; this is a grave issue to pilots and the safety of people on board and on land.

Canada is seeing the issue become more frequent, and now the question becomes: how do we tackle this? Many pilots argue that stricter laws and harsher sentences are the path, while some people disagree. Like anything illegal, it is important to introduce this problem to youth early-on. By informing youth about the issues and safety regarding laser pointers earlier, we can possibly deter them from making mistakes in the future.

These days you can get laser pointers for under $2 at a gas station, and high powered ones from online websites like Amazon or Alibaba that cost anywhere from $5 to $500. If the government is serious about tackling this issue, then fines and jail time may not be the best choice of action. Perhaps legislation to reduce the purchase and selling of more powerful laser pointers would be more prudent.

Yet, laser pointers still are important tools in everyday life. Laser pointers have a wide scope of practical uses today, from classroom applications all the way to high-powered military weaponry; lasers are used in many forms and ways. It is important to remember that with the proper knowledge they can be very handy tools for everyday life. Like anything, all you need is a bit of research into the applications of a laser pointer you are using, and the possibilities of fun and creativity are endless. Also, take the time to check online with the laws and practices regarding laser pointers in your country and region, as each place may have different views and rules on using or purchasing laser pointers.

Lastly, remember you can have a lot of fun, but like anything you need to use common sense and not point it at people, vehicles, or aircraft; because a simple light can put a blind sight in your future very easily.

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