City Council passes laser pointer ordinance

Published: Sep. 13, 2011 at 11:20 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2011 at 3:25 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) Myrtle Beach city leaders have passed a proposed ordinance Tuesday that would set regulations and punishments for the misuse of laser pointers.

The ordinance will prohibit minors from possessing laser pointers and make it illegal for anyone to knowingly sell, offer, or give a pointer to a minor.

Tracey Smith says his Fourth of July holiday was ruined in Myrtle Beach this year after he claims his family was "harassed" by people shining lasers on the beach off of hotel balconies. He says he knows the green lasers are dangerous, and became fearful they could damage the eyes of his daughters.

"We couldn't even enjoy it because of the laser pointers. With two daughters, you're afraid they're going to get shined in their eyes," he said. "But the Fourth of July... was the worst time."

Eye doctors along the Grand Strand say green lasers are much more dangerous than the red laser fad that was popular along the Grand Strand in the 90's. Doctors say the short wavelength in green lasers have the potential to cause flash blindness and damage your eyes.

That flash blindness is a major concern among Jeremy Bass and his team of pilots at Huffman Helicopters in Myrtle Beach. He says he's filed several complaints with the FAA and Myrtle Beach Police after people targeted his helicopters with the green lasers.

"It's a dangerous activity and it's also an assault," Bass explained.

The FAA says the green laser pointers have the potential to temporarily blind a pilot, making it nearly impossible to land an aircraft.

"You're actually putting people's lives in danger," Bass added.

New statistics gathered by the FAA reveal green lasers are becoming a growing problem in the skies above the Grand Strand. Forty-five reports of people shining lasers into the cockpit of an aircraft have been reported in Myrtle Beach so far this year.

Four of those reports, according to a spokeswoman, happened just last week. Only seven laser complaints were filed in the Myrtle Beach area in 2010.

Bass says the green light from the laser can illuminate the glass cockpits of his helicopters and cause a pilot to temporarily lose their night vision in mid-flight.

"There are people who know better, but thought it would be fun to point a laser at an aircraft and now they're sitting in jail for 5, 10 years," Bass said.

Fears from local pilots have also prompted a section of Myrtle Beach's proposed laser ordinance to address the legality of flashing or directing lasers towards an aircraft or helicopter. Should the ordinance pass, it would become an illegal act.

The new ordinance went into effect Tuesday following its passage. Officials said if a person is found violating the new ordinance, they could be found guilty of a misdemeanor crime.

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