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A Blinding, “Wicked” Power

Careless use of pocket lasers is dangerous and potentially criminal

For a couple of hundred dollars, you can buy the world’s most powerful handheld laser. “It’s stunning to behold, magnificent to wield and absolutely wicked to own,” according to its online advertisement.
    What would you do with such a tool?
    According to the manufacturer’s website, you’d wonder “how can you use this power in the most awe-inspiring way imaginable?”
    Something like power and awe must have been on the mind of a Calvert Countian wielding a similar laser. In the early hours of at least three spring mornings ending May 3, he targeted at least eight commercial vessels passing between Cove Point and Drum Point, including a Bay pilot’s ship, several container ships and the cruise ship Carnival Pride.
    He wanted to see how far it would reach, he told Calvert County sheriff’s team who followed a wide path of community intelligence to his home.
    He hadn’t imagined that the power he held in his hand could blind a human a mile away, potentially causing a collision in the shipping channel.
    Nor had Calvert County Special Operations Captain Steven R. Jones. “It’s amazing how a little money can cause such havoc,” Jones told me.
    By the night of the raid, the ill-conceived game of laser tag was no secret. The Coast Guard, the Association of Maryland Pilots, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Dominion Cove Point LNG Terminal, the Calvert Sheriff and plenty of neighbors were all “sharing intelligence,” Jones said.
    Including the resolution, achieved in this case without prosecution, pointing at a driver, captain or pilot is indeed a crime under the Laser Safety Act. Now Calvert is considering going further, outlawing lasers.