Thu, Dec 15, 2005
Offers Alternative To Prosecuting Under Patriot Act
The US House of
Representatives has passed a bill that would carry a $250,000 fine
and a possible 5-year prison term for people who point lasers at
aircraft. Proponents say the bill fills a gap in the current law
that does not specifically prohibit pointing laser beams at
aircraft -- evidently, relying on common sense (and the Patriot
Act) to dissuade those from doing it.
Rep. Rick Keller of Florida, who sponsored the House bill, said
the move came following heightened safety concerns caused by a rash
of reports over the past year of pilots noticing laser light
pointed at their planes while approaching to land.
Keller told the Associated Press it was only a matter of time
before someone with a laser "ends up killing over 200 people in a
commercial airline crash."
In response to a spike in the number of reports concerning
"laser illumination," the FAA established a reporting system for
pilots to track the trend. According to agency spokeswoman Laura
Brown, since then 287 incidents have been documented.
As was reported at the beginning of the
year in Aero-News, Parsippany, NJ resident David
Banach was convicted of pointing a laser at airplanes preparing to
land at Teterboro airport last year. He pleaded guilty in November
to violating a provision of the USA Patriot Act, and could face
probation -- or up to 20 years in prison.
Keller said his bill offers an alternative to citing the Patriot
Act -- under which pointing a laser at aircraft is considered an
act of terrorism -- in prosecuting similar cases where the Act
doesn't necessarily apply.
The bill now goes to the Senate for approval.
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