The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently created a task force against a national security threat that has seen such an uptick in attacks, it could almost be considered an "epidemic." The weapon: hand-held lasers.
In a blog post, the FBI states that incidents of lasers being pointed at flying aircraft -- a federal crime -- are expected to reach 3,700 this year. In 2005, the FBI notes, there were 283 attacks. These numbers do not include those going unreported each year.
The FBI reports lasers being dangerous to pilots, passengers and those on the ground.
"I had temporary blindness. My eyes were burning. It caused disorientation, and it was distracting,” Captain Robert Hamilton with the Air Line Pilots Association said, according to the post, of a time when he was landing a plane and a laser was pointed at the aircraft.
The FBI created the Laser Strike Working Group National Initiative, a public-private partnership stemming from an idea began by the FBI's Sacramento Division. Sacramento's initiative resulted in a 75 percent reduction in takeoff and landing laser attacks out of the area's international airport.
Here are the laws regarding laser pointers and aircraft (emphasis added):
Those who aim a laser pointer at an aircraft can be prosecuted under two federal statutes. A law put into effect this year makes pointing a laser at an aircraft a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $11,000 per violation. Under a law already on the books, those who interfere with the operation of an aircraft can receive up to 20 years in prison and be fined $250,000.
The FBI blog points to this YouTube video showing a laser pointer being shot toward a helicopter, which ultimately led to an arrest of the perpetrator:
George Johnson, a supervisory federal air marshal and liaison officer with the FBI, said that the number of incidents in recent years has almost reached "epidemic levels."
“Use a laser pointer for what it’s made for. Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is dangerous and reckless. Just don’t do it,” Johnson said in on the FBI's blog.
Featured image via Shutterstock.com.