This Happened

Federal Law Banning Idiots From Aiming Laser Pointers At Planes Finally Comes in Handy

No. 1 in lights.
(Photo: Ryan Ebert)

(Photo: Ryan Ebert)

When Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, it banned people from pointing laser pointers at airplanes in flight.

If that sounds to you like just another machination of the nanny state, here’s news for you: Aiming laser pointers at planes is apparently a thing, and the feds are apparently on the case. In a press release today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced charges against a Long Island man accused of aiming his laser at a commercial plane and a Suffolk County Police Department helicopter.

According to the complaint, Shirely, Long Island resident Angel M. Rivas was picked up outside a Quick Stop convenience store and copped to aiming a laser at the aircraft in question.

“Laser pointers aimed at aircraft pose many dangers, including disrupting the vision of pilots,” U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement.

And before you ask how much damage a laser pointer can really do, consider this 2011 story from The New York Times reporting that “A beam that is 1/25th of an inch wide at its origin can be 2 to 3 feet wide by the time it reaches an airliner approaching or departing an airport.”

As for the charges against Mr. Rivas, an FBI spokesman told Betabeat that today’s charges represent the first time the Bureau’s New York office has brought charges under the laser pointer law, though not for lack of trying. The office has opened 72 investigations into FAA-reported laser incidents.

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