This is a question that does not have a straightforward answer. The legality of laser pointers varies from country to country, and even from state to state within the United States. In some cases, laser pointers are legal for recreational use, while in other cases they may be classified as illegal weapons.
It is important to understand the relevant laws in your country or state before purchasing laser pointers. If you are planning to use laser pointers for entertainment, education or decoration, please make sure to check the regulations in advance.
As of August 2014, the online retailer Amazon stopped selling Class IIIa (5 mW) and Class IIIb (50 mW) lasers to buyers in countries and regions that regulate laser products:
(If you are looking for high power handheld lasers check out this guide).
For example, Class IIIa laser pointers can be purchased online and shipped to the United Kingdom; however, they cannot be shipped to Australia (with limited exceptions). In addition, some countries such as Canada restrict any type of laser pointer, while others such as the United States have specific restrictions on laser pointers that exceed a certain power output.
So, are laser pointers illegal? The answer is: it depends. You will need to check the regulations in your country or state to know for sure.
What kind of laser pointers are illegal?
In the United States, laser pointers are classified as “non-weapon” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which permits their sale to buyers 18 years of age or older. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has set voluntary standards for Class I and IIa lasers, while a Federal law regulates the sale of Class IIIa and higher lasers.
Class IIIb “military laser pointers” are included in the United States Munitions List, which means that they cannot be purchased without government permission. Laser Eyes Blog reports:
“Yes military lasers are restricted to people who have clearance from DoD. Lockheed Martin manufactures many of these lasers for the military. I cannot go into detail about what these lasers are used for, but I can say that they are not toys and should not be used as such.”
So, while most laser pointers are legal, Class IIIb lasers (50 mW+) which may be classified as “military laser pointers” are restricted and cannot be purchased without government permission.
Can you get in trouble with a laser pointer?
Again, the answer is: it depends. In most cases, using a laser pointer in a safe and responsible manner will not lead to any trouble. However, if you misuse a laser pointer or use one that exceeds the power output limit set by your country or state, you may be subject to legal troubles.
In the United States, laser pointers are classified as “non-weapon” devices by the FDA which permit their sale to buyers who are 18 years of age or older. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has set voluntary standards for Class I and IIa lasers, while a Federal law regulates the sale of Class iiiR (3b) lasers (determined to be hazardous for eye exposure).
If you are using a Class IIIa or Class IIIb laser pointer, the relevant laws will depend on which state you are in.
Can a laser pointer reach the moon?
No, laser pointers are not powerful enough to reach the moon. In fact, most laser pointers have a power output of 5 milliwatts or less. While they can be seen from great distances, they are not nearly powerful enough to travel to the moon.
So there you have it: while there are restrictions on Class IIIb lasers, most laser pointers are legal to own and use. Just be sure to check the regulations in your country or state before purchasing one!
Is a laser pointer a weapon?
No, laser pointers are not weapons. Although they emit a powerful beam of light, laser pointers are designed to be safe for eye exposure. If you purchase the proper laser pointer and do not stare directly into it or shine it in someone’s eyes, there is no reason for anyone to consider it as a weapon.
However, if you misuse a laser pointer or shine it at an aircraft, you may be subject to legal repercussions. In this case it is treated as a weapon. So, are laser pointers weapons? No, but if you use one illegally they can become classified as a weapon.