Last month, a non-lethal weapon -- once reserved only for the military -- was unveiled as a new tool for local law enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard.
New Scientist reports that at the SHOT show in January, a conference for professionals involved with sport shooting, hunting and law enforcement, the 200-milliwatt GLARE Enforcer was unveiled by B.E. Meyers Electro-Optics as the first laser dazzler available for domestic use.
Laser dazzlers work by temporarily blinding a subject using a green laser with no risk of killing the person, unlike the risk associated with tasers and guns outfitted with rubber bullets. But according to New Scientist, there is still risk involved that has some questioning if they should actually be used:
"We have had some injuries," says a former researcher at the US army'sBrooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, who asked not to be named, "but for the most part they have been minor." That is partly because, when faced with a bright light, people instinctively look away. Also, the pupil of the eye contracts in a tenth of a second, quickly reducing the amount of light reaching the retina.
Not all injuries are minor, however. The researcher recounted the story of a soldier he interviewed after an incident in Iraq a few years ago. While on duty, the soldier fumbled a dazzler he was trying to point at an oncoming vehicle a safe distance away. "He was in an awkward position and illuminated a rearview mirror in such a way that he got a beam directly back into the eye." The beam had gone less than 6 metres when it hit the soldier in the centre of vision of his right eye, burning the retina and leaving his vision in that eye permanently damaged.
The Red Cross, New Scientist notes, is skeptical of use of the lasers and thinks more needs to be done to reduce the risk for permanent blindness.
At 40 meters, the laser can cause permanent damage. The GLARE Enforcer has safety measures, not found in military grade dazzlers, that can detect a person at what is deemed too close of a distance and reduces the power of the laser in this case.
This video explains how the technology is used on the military level and details how it affects the human eye:
B.E. Meyers has more on its technology:
The GLARE Enforcer's innovative Eye Safe® technology automatically adjusts the output power depending on the target distance, ensuring the delivery of maximum safe power at all times while maintaining the safety of all nearby personnel against accidental eye injury, even when the laser is operated in highly dynamic situations.
Additionally, the GLARE Enforcer's high output power delivers the greatest stand-off distance of any non-lethal product. This enables the operator to warn and determine intent of targets at a distance beyond 2 km. Within 500m, it produces an overpowering visual effect that deters hostile action and dissuades further approach. The device produces a large target spot, making it easy to aim at moving objects and providing coverage of multiple individuals simultaneously.
Still New Scientists points out that the greatest threat to public health from dazzlers may not be from the local police department but the average citizen purchasing the equipment. Even more powerful devices than those used by the military can be found online for around $1,000.
Here you can see one of the military-issued GLARE dazzlers being used in Afghanistan to "prevent potential hazard vehicles from getting close to the convoy":
All this to say, you could be seeing them soon. And in more than one way.
Update: The Blaze first reported that this laser dazzler was FDA approved. The FDA contacted us to say that it is not within FDA authority to non-medical laser products. Dan Hewitt a Health Promotion Officer with the FDA's Electronic Products Branch wrote in an email to the Blaze: "The Class IIIb GLARE Enforcer is not currently compliant with federal laser regulations that limit it to Class IIIa. When and if BE Meyers applies for a variance from the class limits or demonstrates that it is compliant with class limits, then the manufacturer can enter into commerce with the product. FDA approves variances and exemptions, but does not approve the products because FDA does not have the authority to approve non-medical laser products."