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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL)

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NO LAUGHING MATTER - POINTING LASERS AT AIRPLANES NOW A CRIME

Wednesday, July 29, 2009
ST. PAUL, MN - Starting August 1, pointing a laser at a moving aircraft is no laughing matter - it’s a crime. Last session the Minnesota Legislature passed a bipartisan measure (SF1408) making it a gross misdemeanor to intentionally discharge a laser at moving aircraft. Currently federal law prohibits this dangerous behavior for larger airplanes, but the crime has been rarely prosecuted at the federal level. In an effort to prevent laser-induced aircraft accidents, the new statute gives Minnesota law enforcement officials the right to arrest and prosecute any person knowingly discharging a laser at an airplane. “Before August 1 you could point an over-the-counter laser right into the cockpit of a moving plane, put people’s lives at risk, and never be prosecuted. It’s happened before in Minnesota, and it will happen again; unless we do something about it." said Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL - South St. Paul) who authored the bill. There have been recent cases in Minnesota where persons admitted to aiming lasers at moving aircraft and knew it was wrong. They were not prosecuted. Hansen’s law will change that by making it a gross misdemeanor to knowingly aim and discharge a laser or similar device into the cockpit of an aircraft in the process of taking off, in flight or landing. The idea for the new law was brought to Hansen by a constituent who is a Minnesota State Trooper. “These lasers temporarily blind pilots and can take airplanes down,” said Hansen. “We need this legal recourse in place to prosecute these acts and make people think twice before doing something dumb. This simple new law will save lives.”