Sen. Whitehouse offers amendment to ban pointing lasers beams at airplanes

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced a bill on the Senate floor Wednesday night that would make it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft.

Whitehouse said current laws are too weak to prosecute people who are caught red-handed trying to blind pilots with laser beams. His amendment would allow fines and prison terms of up to five years for such action.

“Current federal law does not give prosecutors ready tools to prosecute and thus deter this dangerous conduct,” said Whitehouse in a speech on the Senate floor. “The problem is worsening as new and more powerful lasers become commercially available."

After Whitehouse spoke, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who is managing the underlying legislation authorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, had himself added as a co-sponsor to the bill by unanimous consent.

"It's an extraordinarily dangerous situation," added Rockefeller. “It just makes me worry that it’s going to get worse because it is so easy to do.”