A lot has been said about the power of lasers.
However, if used responsibly, laser pointers are perfectly safe.
But to ensure the safe use of laser pointers, there are certain rules and regulations in place for U.S. consumers.
This guide will walk you through all you need to know about the age at which you can own a laser pointer and why that is.
Do You Have to Be 18 to Buy a Laser Pointer?
The first question that comes to mind is, do you have to be a certain age to legally own laser pointers?
Apparently, yes, you do! The law expressly states that it is unlawful for anyone below the age of 18 to own a laser pointer in a public or private space.
However, this statement applies to the ownership of all laser pointers except helium-neon (HeNe) laser pointers that have a power limit of 5mW. These lasers are classified as Class 2 lasers, as they have the potential to cause eye damage.
The second laser pointer that people under 18 can own is a diode laser, which, once again, has a power of 5mW. This is classified as a Class 3A laser that also has the potential for eye damage.
In conclusion, you must be 18 years of age to own any laser pointer.
Do You Need an ID to Buy a Laser Pointer?
There are laws in place which prohibit the sale of laser pointers to minors.
It is expressly stated that no person should knowingly sell or trade a laser pointer to a minor, i.e., someone under the age of 18.
To ensure you aren’t selling laser pointers to a minor, there are rules in place regarding proof of age and identity.
It is expressly stated that anyone selling or transferring a laser pointer should demand the recipient to provide evidence of their age.
Hence, if you wish to buy a laser pointer, you should provide a form of identification with a picture of you issued by the federal, state, or municipal government.
Most often, this would be your identification card or driver’s license.
Along with this, it is mandated that no seller should sell or transfer a laser pointer to anyone who fails to produce the ID card as evidence that he or she is indeed 18 or above.
Therefore, it can be safely said that you need an ID to buy a laser pointer according to law.
It is also strictly prohibited that any person should provide any false evidence of age or identity in an attempt to procure a laser pointer.
Why Do You Have to Be 18 to Buy a Laser Pointer?
There have been several incidents where the irresponsible use of laser pointers resulted in accidents.
Considering all these stories, the board of legislators passed a law to ban the sale or transfer of laser pointers to people below the age of 18.
This was done as a protective measure to safeguard people from eye damage and other grave concerns.
Most people wonder, why do you have to be 18 to buy a laser pointer since its uses are so harmless?
The only reason why laser pointers are disallowed for minors is that they can be dangerous.
This is why only laser pointers with a maximum limit of 5mW are often allowed because higher power ones carry an even higher risk of permanent eye injury.
Most often, minors use laser pointers with friends, classmates, and pets.
They can unintentionally shine the laser pointer in the eyes of a friend or pet, which has the potential of causing temporary blindness.
It can also burn skin and cause blindness among pets too.
Moreover, unchecked use of laser pointers can disrupt aircraft activity and temporarily impair the vision of pilots.
Keeping in mind how important it is to use laser pointers responsibly, laws do not allow people under the age of 18 to use laser pointers.
Is It Legal to Own a Laser Pointer?
Now that so many rules are set, we come to the most basic question, is it legal to own a laser pointer?
In the U.S., you are legally allowed to own a laser pointer of any power.
There has been a lot of speculation about the sale of laser pointers with a power limit of more than 5mW.
However, under federal law, you are allowed to sell a laser pointer above the power of 5mW as long as the laser is in compliance with FDA/CDRH laser product requirements.
So to answer the question simply, laser pointers are not illegal but what is wrong is sellers who sell high-power lasers while branding them as ‘pointers.’
The main reason behind this is that high-powered lasers should not be pointed anywhere, as this may cause serious eye or skin damage.
There is still so much confusion surrounding this because a laser pointer needs to be 5mW or lower to sell as a laser pointer.
As mentioned above, ownership of laser pointers above the age of 18 is not prohibited.
However, if you are below the age of 18, owning a laser is illegal.
What Makes Laser Pointers Illegal?
You should avoid two things if you want to ensure you are using a laser pointer in a legal manner.
If you do either of the two things, then this is a criminal offense.
Shining and pointing your laser pointer towards aircraft and pointing the laser pointer at a police officer or a member of law enforcement will land you in trouble.
This is because laser pointers can temporarily impair the vision of pilots, and this can be dangerous for the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.
By State and Country
Another important thing to bear in mind is that the legalities for owning and selling laser pointers vary by state.
For example, in New York, it is completely illegal to sell a laser pointer to a minor, i.e., a person below 18.
However, there are some states where there are no restrictions on age.
At the same time, in Australia, you need permission to own a laser pointer if it has a power limit of over 1 mW.
Laser pointers are very useful, but they can also be dangerous for the eyes, and so their use should be supervised.
This is why people under the age of 18 are not allowed to own laser pointers in certain states.