Thursday, March 18, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

City makes laser
pointers illegal
for minors

The bill bans selling or
giving pointers to minors and
makes harassment with
laser pointers illegal

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Debra Vandergriend says she knows why there needs to be a law curtailing the sale and use of laser pointers.

Vandergriend's 7-year-old-son, Landon, had his vision temporarily impaired from one.

The City Council yesterday unanimously passed a bill that makes it illegal for anyone under 18 to handle a laser pointer.

Vandergriend said her son began complaining of blurred vision and eye discomfort after being exposed to the light of a laser pointer while playing with a 6-year-old neighbor.

Landon's eyesight returned to normal within a week, but ophthalmologists said his vision could have been permanently impaired had he stared into the light for more than 10 seconds.

"I was worried," Vandergriend said, adding that the concern hasn't gone away. "What if something else comes up? At 7, you can't tell if he's seeing right."

The parent of the child with the laser pointer said it was purchased at a local toy store.

Once used primarily by educators and others making presentations, the pointers are now popular with children.

The new law not only bars anyone under 18 from possessing a laser pointer, it also bans people from selling, giving or lending a laser pointer to a minor.

And the law makes it illegal to intentionally point a laser beam into the eyes of another person or animal in an annoying, harassing or alarming manner.

Honolulu police are particularly supportive of the harassment provision.

Penalty for violating the law is a fine of between $100 and $500, up to 30 days in jail or both.

Parents of a minor who violates the law may also be held liable for any injuries caused.

Councilman Duke Bainum, who introduced the bill, distributed copies of a computer Web page that pointed out cruel ways a laser pointer could be used.

"I find nothing funny about the use of laser pointers," he said.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Lori Nishimura said a similar bill has been approved by the state Senate and is now being considered by the House.

E-mail to City Desk

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