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Laser Pointers Classed as Weapons in Australia 491

Posted by timothy
from the conflating-objects-and-uses dept.
An anonymous reader was the first to point to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald which says that New South Wales (of which Sydney is the capital) will prohibit the possession of certain types of laser pointers, defining them as weapons, and make it an offense to carry any laser pointer "without a lawful reason." (Similar coverage at news.com.au) Western Australia apparently beat NSW to the punch, and the federal government of Australia announced earlier this month it will treat laser pointers much like firearms, which, in Australia, is really saying something. The restrictions come as a reaction to incidents (not confined to Australia) in which the lasers were trained on planes, distracting pilots.
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Laser Pointers Classed as Weapons in Australia

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  • by _merlin (160982) on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:33AM (#23139458) Homepage Journal
    They aren't banning class 1 laser pointers (won't cause eye damage) or class 2 laser pointers (your natural blink reflex should be sufficient to protect you from eye damage). They're only banning high powered class 3 and 4 laser pointers (may cause eye damage and need to use eye protection). Most laser pointers are class 2. To be honest, I think this is a good thing. The less idiots with potentially dangerous lasers, the better. A class 2 laser is good enough for most people, and if you really need a bigger one (i.e. not just to compensate for your small breasts/penis), you can get a permit.
    • Sure. Let's outlaw arc welders too. They can blind people. And screwdrivers, because you could stab someone. And metal forks, because you might try to use them to get stuff out of the toaster and electrocute yourself.

      Or maybe some tools are dangerous, but everyone needs to accept that it's not the role of government to protect people from every little danger.

    • by More_Cowbell (957742) * on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:52AM (#23139530) Journal
      Well, I RTFAs (the whole two paragraphs of each). It certainly seems like you've hit the nail on the head and I would have to agree - at least without having heard an argument for the other side.

      That said, I would wonder a few things:
      1. How hard would it be to get a permit? (For instance I have no need for (nor do I own) a class 3 or 4... but I always thought it sounded fun, and I consider myself responsible enough to own one - the same as I feel about guns.
      2. Punishable by up to 14 years in jail. Um, Wtf?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        1. Getting a permit is as simple as providing a practical application that you require one for.
        2. All this talk about lasers being capable of bringing down planes, while serious, is at this stage theoretical. While that gives plenty of people the excuse to keep saying "see, it's harmless" right up until a plane crash is caused by it (at which stage they'll switch to "it's virtually always harmless, just like using forks!"), if you're the poor joe who manages to achieve this feat, expect a 14-year jail sente
    • by propanol (1223344) on Monday April 21, 2008 @02:03AM (#23139556)
      For people who're not up to speed on laser classifications, a level 3 laser is one that outputs between 5-500 mW and a level 4 goes beyond 500 mW. Already at 100 mW the laser is strong enough to make you blind in less than a millisecond. These laser pointers are not like the ones you'll find in common shops, these can inflict serious damage on people and should be handled with the same care as you'd handle a weapon (which they arguably could be classified as).
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by loraksus (171574)
      FAIL
      1-5mW lasers are rated class 3a according to ANSI Z136.1 - and most - hell, virtually all - pen lasers are class 3a.
      But, hey, feel free to continue making idiotic comments that include statements like "good enough for most people" and "can get a permit".
      • by timmarhy (659436)
        so what's your argument there chump? that all pen lasers are dangerous so lets just leave it that way?
      • by moosesocks (264553) on Monday April 21, 2008 @04:52AM (#23140174) Homepage
        DOUBLE-FAIL.

        ANSI (American National Standards Institute) laser classifications are not used in Australia, and are indicated by roman numerals instead of digits (eg. Class IIIa). There is no class 3a in the international system.

        A 5-500mW visible HeNe laser would be classified as 3b under the international system, and can be extremely dangerous if placed in the wrong hands.
        Class 3R lasers are still potentially hazardous, although consdierably less so without the proper optics. I'm not sure if Australia are considering an exemption for 3R devices....
        Most "laser pointers" should fall under Class 1 and 2.

        (However, you were correct in stating that most laser pointers are ANSI Class IIIa)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by syousef (465911)
      In other words YOU don't need one so YOU think it's fine.

      I own a few telescopes, and have a laser pointer. I don't use the telescopes or the pointer as much as I'd like to but now I have to go home and check if it's class 2 or 3, and then work out if I have to get rid of it if it's class 3.

      Astronomy education? Who needs it! Never mind that the criminal fucks that were trying to blind pilots were using more powerful lasers, lets ban the 5mW ones as well. Oh and lets classify it as a weapon so you need to sto
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2008 @02:52AM (#23139746)
      FWIW, I'm one of those who've been injured with a laser pointer. It took a momentary glance up the street after leaving a Newtown bar with friends for me to be left with a blind wiggle across my right eye, from the lower right to the upper left, running right through my fovea. I'm unable to read unless I use my left eye, because with my right there just aren't any words there. I can see the big picture, but no details. That was July 2006, and two years of partial blindness makes a hell of a difference to life. Forget watching fast paced movies and having a clue what's going on, get ready to read 1/3 the speed you used to, and forget being able to look at code and tell the difference between { and ( without using a 20 point font.

      And perl... it's all but incomprehensible.. oh wait, I learned that after being blinded. I kid I kid.

      The thing about the tools who use laser pointers like this is they can be so far away nobody has any idea who they are, where they are, the beam is silent, and about all you can tell is it's over-that-way-somewhere. The bouncers around that night said they'd seen a laser pointer dot bouncing over guests through the evening, but thought nothing of it.

      Whether or not they should be banned is one question, but comparing them to screwdrivers, knives, or axes is being a git who doesn't turn their brain on. At least if some bastard had come at me with a knife they'd have been caught, and at the very least been beaten into a pulp by either my friends, or the bouncers.

      The laser pointer tools though - anonymous, quiet, pretty much undetectable, and their weapon leaves absolutely no evidence behind of what it was apart from really fucking bright.
    • A class 2 laser is good enough for most people, and if you really need a bigger one

      Probably you need a class 3 or 4 to prove your mahood or whatever is that you aussies need to prove.
      And while you are at it, have you thought about classifying led-light flashlights as weapons? They too are bright, shiny and powerful enough.
      Also metal forks and metal spoons: They can used as deadly weapons in an assault by kids at home.
      Also the plastic carrybags that Coles and Woolworths sooo love to hand out: They are deadly too. One kid can choke another. Have you seen Urban Legends movie?
      Also sharp penc

    • by gweihir (88907)
      What about class 3a (5mW)? I have a green class 3a, since a class 2 does not cut it with a bright beamer in a large lecture hall. In Europe, up to 3a is legal for everybody.
  • makes no sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nguy (1207026) on Monday April 21, 2008 @02:25AM (#23139628)
    These incidents are, overall, extremely rare. In-flight they are not an issue at all. Furthermore, pilots better be able to deal with them, since there are lots of other sources of bright light that may cause them to be temporarily blinded (or experience the "photic sneeze").

    If lawmakers are just itching to make a new law, make it a specific law that says that it's illegal to carry a laser pointer on your person, outdoors, within 2 miles of the runway, where it could be pointed at planes taking off or landing.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      As an Australian Commercial pilot I have been victim to these laser attacks before around the Melbourne area. How the fuck are we meant to deal with them? What the hell do you suggest? Put up a fucking mirror? We're either concentrating on approach or gaining altitude, we shouldn't have to worry about some fuckwit with a laser.
      If I'm flying VFR and I can't fucking see then I am going I'm going to have an accident.
      To be honest this law isn't going to change much, because the problem is they don't know who th
    • by caitsith01 (606117) on Monday April 21, 2008 @03:40AM (#23139908) Journal
      There have been half a dozen or so such incidents in Australia in the last few months, including one which involved coordinated beams from multiple locations directed at the same plane.

      E.g.:

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/04/08/2211257.htm [abc.net.au]

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/04/11/2214689.htm [abc.net.au]

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/03/29/2202704.htm [abc.net.au]

      As an Australian who flies quite a lot, I'm extremely happy for them to ban these things if it stops morons from blinding my pilot on final approach. The fact that there have been coordinated attacks is also evidence that it is more than an incidental problem.
      • by gweihir (88907)
        First, koordinated attacks on a plane of this nature allready are higly criminal. No need to make the laser possession criminal as well. What is needed instead is finding these iditots and punishing them as the wanabee murderers they are. The tool is not the issue. There is numberous other dangerous equipment with potentially a similar death toll. (Incidentially the risk is not that high for the airplace scenario.)
    • by jamesh (87723)

      temporarily blinded

      I'm not sure how much the effect diminishes with range, but the sort of blinding caused by the lasers covered by this sort of legislation can be anything but temporary...
      • scare mongering (Score:3, Informative)

        by nguy (1207026)
        That's bullshit. Laser pointers have a few mW power (more powerful lasers are already regulated); they don't cause blindness even at short range, let alone at a distance of hundreds of feet when pointed at a moving plane with a pilot with normal blink reflexes. You really have to work hard to produce any kind of damage with a laser pointer.

        http://www.mayoclinic.org/news2005-rst/2800.html [mayoclinic.org]
  • Somewhat stupid, sure, like the first post talking about banning headlights so we can't blind other drivers.

    But then after stories like this on salshdot: http://slashdot.org/articles/07/08/09/0412215.shtml [slashdot.org], I'm not the least bit surprised?
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday April 21, 2008 @02:44AM (#23139716) Homepage Journal
    compared to the chaos that will ensue after the cats of Australia have found out what lawmakers have done with their favorite toy and rise up as one to slay them.
  • by The Famous Druid (89404) on Monday April 21, 2008 @02:45AM (#23139718)
    and I stayed silent.

    Then they disarmed the ewoks, and I stayed silent.

    Then they came to disarm me, and there was no-one left to speak up.
    • by jamesh (87723)

      Then they came to disarm me ...
      ... so I shone a class 3 laser pointer into their eyes and blinded the bastards!
  • Shaky Logic (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Doc Ruby (173196)
    Have pilots really been blinded by lasers pointed from the ground? Because the pointer can't get within a thousand feed of a plane, and actually even more at the angles that can reach over the plane's body and into the pilot's windows. At that distance, these laser pointers' beams are spread out pretty wide, so the person pointing them can possibly see the dot from that far away. So the brightness on the tiny fraction of that dot's area that actually falls on the pilot's eye is pretty small. Even more probl
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by aXis100 (690904)
      Supposedly at those sorts of instances, the laser has spread out over the windscreen and flashes the entire cockpit.

      As far as I am aware, the pilots themselves have reported this so I assume they think it's bad.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Eris13 (647245)
      Yes, there have been numerous examples of this happening: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/04/11/2214689.htm [abc.net.au]

      Most incidents take place on landing or takeoff. Green lasers also being notoriously good at remaining focused enough for the several hundred meters needed to completely blind a pilot at night.
  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Monday April 21, 2008 @03:19AM (#23139850) Homepage
    Laser pointers do !
  • Face + palm. (Score:2, Redundant)

    by rindeee (530084)
    So since a handful of people do something stupid with a laser pointer, AUS outlaws them. I've got to think that far more deaths are caused by car accidents as a result of people being 'brighted'. Will they outlaw high-beams. They should probably outlaw really bright directionally focused light sources altogether. Better outlaw water while they're at it. I mean, look how many people drown every year.
  • Oblig. (Score:4, Funny)

    by tick-tock-atona (1145909) on Monday April 21, 2008 @03:52AM (#23139956)
    Homer: A high powered laser is not a weapon, Marge, it's a tool. Like a butcher's knife or a harpoon, or... or an alligator.
  • Hand held lasers are one thing

    but the laser inside a DVD writer is just as powerful (pop balloons, light matches) although less accessible.

    If people were genuinely trying to disable pilots (a feat of aiming that's so close to impossible as to make downing an aircraft by throwing stones at it look credible) they could easily extract these and use them in the same way.

  • Cool! That means I'm armed and dangerous.
    Finaly I can start robbing banks. The not-having-enough-money-to-buy-a-gun is no longer a show stopper.
  • What about Class 3a? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gweihir (88907) on Monday April 21, 2008 @04:53AM (#23140180)
    I carry around a class 3A ( 5mW) laser pointer, which is perfectly legal in Europe. From Class 3B onwards, you need to be a ctrained in laser safety. Would the 3a make me a weapons carrier in Australia?
  • by jamesh (87723) on Monday April 21, 2008 @05:06AM (#23140228)
    They just need a warning label, like 'Warning: Do not point laser at remaining pilot'.
  • Lasers class 3 and up are already prohibited in many countries, at least the Netherlands, Belgium, and France.
  • Welcome to the club! I would offer you a welcome gift basket, but it's being held up in legal pending approval of the government that all products in it are certified non-lethal.

      We've prepared for you a chair. You'll need something comfortable to sit in while you wait for years and years of court cases, as standing that whole time is just uncomfortable.

    I see you've found our complimentary golf-towels. Oh, no, we don't have a golf course. See, the government doesn't trust us with any small object that travels at anything resembling a high speed. The golf-towel is to dry the nervous sweat from your brow as you sit on the edge of that comfortable chair as the courts decide on cases that could either classify you as the law-abiding citizen simply for doing the things you've always done or declare you a criminal simply for doing the things you've always done.

    Oh, and we have over there our Screech-o-mat(tm), a device that you can pull the lever on to remind you of the pointlessness of arguing your case that you're not a bad guy for simply owning a useful tool, because all you'll get if you DO defend yourself is the screeching and wailing of fear-mongers and politicians who are slowly stripping away your rights and liberties "for the children." Oh, there it goes. Yes, it's normally that loud, and yes, the "arguments" it spouts are all direct quotes from the people who think you're a danger to life, the universe, and everything simply for being Not Them. I guess Bob needed his daily reminder.

    Uh-oh, Phil over there forgot to use the Screech-o-mat again! Don't mind him, he'll wind down in about 10 minutes or so. That's what happens when you don't use the Screech-o-mat, you start to wonder why the world doesn't make sense and wonder if you're living in a madhouse. Yeah, that's why he's shouting that at the top of his lungs...oh, hey, he ran down quicker than usual. He must not have had his morning coffee...oh, no, wait...there it is. His soul just got crushed under the realization that the inmates are running the asylum and there's really not much that can be done about it anymore, as everybody in power seems to have checked their common sense at the door and lost their claim ticket.

    Don't worry, you get used to it after a while. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go use the Screech-o-mat.
  • by moxley (895517) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:45AM (#23143662)
    Wow..they sure have mangled the freedoms and rights of Australians in the past 8 years. Gun rights? Gone. Now laser pointers?

    It's happening everywhere. Well, let's just cut to the chase (or the future):

    The US, UK, and Austrailia are combined into one giant country, locked down like a prison. Everyone is chipped, everything is monitored and tracked. You cannot own a gun or laser pointer, hell - you cannot even own a flashlight without registering it as only cops and burglers need them, and you're not a cop.

    Matter of fact, you can't really own anything.

    So you have applied for ownership of a car, which is a class c restricted motorized device?

    Nope, don't think so Application denied - only criminals and party members use cars, they are quite potent weapons and very dangerous and since we care about keeping YOU safe above all else let me just point out some of the many uses of a 'car" -

    You could run someone over-especially children.

    You could use the car as a bomb and run it into government buildings, and we can't have that.

    You could use it in your garage to gas yourself (that is, if we don't make it there in time to stop you once we've noticed you're spending an inordinate amount of time sitting in the garage in one place with an illegal motorized device running).

    You could use it to try to leave the country; that would be unsafe, you could get in an accident or end up trying to live somewhere where there is no government to protect you, or one that won't protect you enough.

      - So you can see, that we really do care - and we are, above all else: FAIR. DNA does not lie. We genotyped you AND your children and your wife and you all show a high propensity for independent thought, distrust of authority and suseptibility to disease. You children show possible criminal tendencies with a 20% liklihood of un-societal behavior. This is why you have been given a repetitive manufacturing job in the D-5 neighborhood and why your children will be educated at the government happy child camp.

    Remember, safety and security above all else; without it, and without us - you have nothing!

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