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US: UPDATED - Myrtle Beach proposes severely restricting lasers

The beach resort town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is set to vote on a proposal to severely restrict lasers. The ordinance would prohibit minors from buying or using lasers. Businesses would be prohibited from selling lasers to minors.

For adults, the proposal would ban use in public such as beaches, parks or streets. It would be illegal to aim lasers at a person, animal or vehicle. Violation would be a misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to a $500 fine and one month in jail.

Pic 2011-09-13 at 9.05.26 AM
Still frame from WMBF News video about laser misuse in Myrtle Beach

myrtle beach laser shop sign
Still frame from WBTW News 13 video, showing green laser pointers for $7.99

The September 13 2011 “first reading” vote on Ordinance 2011-52 comes after more than 140 complaints thus far in 2011. Green laser pointers are popular; Myrtle Beach business owners sell about 50 per day, according to WMBF News. One merchant quoted by WPDE called green laser pointers “the single hottest product of the summer.” A city spokesperson said “We want to address this issue before it becomes a problem.”

WMBF quoted a man who said “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.” They also interviewed a helicopter company that has filed “several complaints” with the FAA and local police due to laser misuse. FAA records show there have been 45 aircraft incidents involving lasers this year.

The ordinance would only take effect if it also receives favorable votes during a second reading in late September.

From WMBF News (second WMBF story here), WPDE Carolina Live and WBTW News 13. Note: WMBF reported that the ordinance covers “green pointers” while WPDE said it covered “all pointers”. [It covers all pointers; see the Update 2 link below.]

UPDATED - September 27 2011: The Myrtle Beach ordinance passed a second vote and thus it takes effect immediately. WMBF now indicates that all pointers -- not just green ones -- are covered by the law. Minors are not permitted to purchase a laser pointer without parental supervision and permission, or if they can show the laser will be used for school purposes. Merchants say most lasers sold were to people over 18, so they do not expect sales to be hampered. From WMBF News.

UPDATE 2 - October 3 2011: LaserPointerSafety.com has obtained and published a copy of the ordinance. The full text is here.