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Sun, Mar 05, 2023

Colorado Pushes to Make Lasing Aircraft a Class 6 Felony

Lawmaker Says Anemic Response to Laser Hooligans Result of No State-Level Law

The Colorado Pilot Association has called for stringent punishments for those lasing aircraft in flight, after a stark increase in reports through 2022.

In 2021, there were 260 incidents reported to the state, in 2022 that number climbed to more than 300. Pilots in the area said they've had enough, with 400 aviation-related businesses joining with the Association to demand harsher punishments for those caught targeting aircraft with high-powered lasers. Right now, there's little on the books to punish anyone caught, though anyone in the know is aware of FAA regulations that should provide plenty of 'stick' already. From the sound of it, local PDs are less than enthused about doing much more than giving out a stern talking-to, according to one policymaker. 

"There's nothing law enforcement can do about it right now except confiscate the lasers," said Sen. Joann Ginal, a Democrat representing Larimer County, Colorado. She's one of two prime sponsors of a bill to remedy the issue, SB23-095. She paints an unusual picture, where the defanged response to laser-wielders is a by-product of a vacuum in state law. With local PDs responding - not the FBI - agencies are at a loss of how to book those found lasing aircraft.

"It's a testament to the training of pilots these days and the technology we have there hasn't been a catastrophic incident but everybody knows it's only a matter of time if this goes unchecked before something really catastrophic happens with a potentially massive loss of life," said Kelly Sloan with the Colorado Aviation Business Association.

Ginal says her bill is about public safety, "We need to start putting down some laws to be able to catch people doing things that cause the loss of life or loss of many lives and this bill would do just that."

The bill would make pointing a laser at a plane a Class 6 felony under Colorado law. So far, it's passed the Senate and is now working its way through the House.

FMI: www.colorado.gov

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