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Powerful handheld lasers pose high risks

September 24, 2010 8:24:41 PM PDT
In terms of handheld lasers, where do certain ones fall?

A year ago, this certain laser would have cost thousands of dollars and been hard to purchase. Now, for just a few hundred dollars, the most powerful and "extremely dangerous" handheld laser in the world can be legally bought through a growing number of internet distributors, like David Todeschini who sells them through his Awesome Lasers website.

Eyewitness News asked, "If I wanted to, I could buy this?"

"That's correct and it's perfectly legal, it's 100 percent legal," Todeschini said.

It is "perfectly legal" even though its one-thousand milliwatt radiation beam can hit a target miles away.

"So we're shooting at a building that is across the Hudson, we're on the Jersey side, you're shooting at a building in Manhattan?" asked Eyewitness News.

"That's right," said Todeschini.

With the press of a button, the beam illuminates the top of a Midtown high-rise.

The same handheld laser can also burn through thick plastic in seconds.

"If it punches through plastic this easily, think of what it can do to the soft tissue or retina of your eyes," said Todeschini. "At close range, it can be dangerous."

Website sellers warn of "immediate irreversible retina damage" if improperly used. They advise that protective goggles always be warn. Yet, there are virtually no laws governing the sale of these lasers as long as the buyer is 18 or older.

It is a felony to point any laser into an airplane cockpit. Still, each year, the number of reported incidents climbs from 250 lasers pointed at aircraft in 2005 to nearly 15-hundred last year.

"It is a real threat, used by terrorist, used by crackpots," said Congressman Peter King, (R) New York.

After viewing Eyewitness News' report, the minority leader on the House Homeland Security Committee says Congress needs to regulate the sale of these powerful, new lasers.

For example: "To know who has one, to see the purpose for buying them, why would you want one of these, if you had any type of criminal record," King said.

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