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Latest Posts » Consumer Electronics » Are Laser Pointers Legal in Australia?

Are Laser Pointers Legal in Australia?

Written by Vlad on October 7, 2010 – 6:35 pm - 14,738 views

James Bond in Goldfinger (1964), as played by Sean Connery - in a precarious situation involving a laser

Yes, Laser Pointers are legal in Australia, but they have become more heavily regulated since mid-2008. The Australian Customs Service and most Australian State Governments toughened regulations on laser pointers due to the actions of a few idiots who were shining them at passenger aircraft.

Many people who I’ve spoken to seem to think that laser pointers have been banned in Australia. This is false. To summarise the legal consensus, it is legal to buy laser pointers in Australia, provided that the emissions power is less than 1 milliwatt (1 mW) and that you have a reasonable excuse for owning one and having it in a public place.

I have been doing some reading and this is my understanding of the current situation as of October 2010:

It it legal to buy laser pointers within Australia?

Yes, though some shops or online retailers may choose to record your identification details and ask you to explain what you want to use them for before deciding to sell you one. You will have difficulty finding laser pointers over 1 milliwatt (1 mW) in power.

Is it legal to import laser pointers into Australia?

Yes, as long as the emissions power is 1 milliwatt (1 mW) or less.

If you want to import more powerful lasers, you will first need to complete the Form B709B – Importation of Weapons – Police Authorisation, in the State in which you live. Then you will need to complete Form B710 – Application for permission to import schedule 2 and schedule 3 weapons from the Australian Customs Service.

Customs may be suspicious if the power rating of the laser is not clearly stated on the laser pointer or its packaging. I have heard anecdotally that there are overseas suppliers who place false low power ratings on laser pointers, but I do not know if customs perform tests to confirm the power output.

I have read reports from 3 different people who said that their laser pointer purchase from online retailer Dealextreme was intercepted by customs, but laser pointers from other companies made it through.

If you are in doubt when buying a laser pointer, I would advise you to ask the seller if the power rating is written on the laser, and to send you a scanned copy of the manual, datasheet and/or packaging, so that you can show it to customs if they have any concerns.

It is legal to operate laser pointers in Australia?

The law varies slightly from state to state, but across the country, you will be within the law if your laser is 1 milliwatt (mW) or less and you have a good reason for owning it, and have a good reason for carrying it in public.

This is from the NSW Police Firearms Registry Fact Sheet on Laser Pointers:

“It is an offence in NSW to possess any laser pointer in
public without a reasonable excuse. The maximum penalty
for possession of any kind of laser pointer in a public place
without reasonable excuse is 2 years imprisonment or a
$5500 fine, or both.

What is reasonable excuse?

A reasonable excuse would be an amateur astronomer,
teacher, lecturer or builder who has the laser pointer in their
possession at a time and place related to that purpose (i.e.
lawful pursuit of that occupation).”

Wikipedia’s article “Laser Pointer” has a summary of the restrictions in other states, with links to source material.

If you want to operate a more powerful laser pointer, you will have to apply for a prohibited weapons licence in your state.

In addition, I have some common sense advice:

  • Do not operate one at a sporting event, in a cinema, from a moving vehicle or in any circumstances that may annoy other people, endanger them or attract unwanted attention.
  • If you are searched by police and they find one, tell the officer the laser pointer’s power rating, explain your legitimate use of the laser pointer and how you will be using it for that purpose later that day.

It is legal to buy laser diodes and laser tubes in Australia?

As these are merely components and are not a finished product, they are not considered laser pointers, so they are not covered by the laser pointer regulations.

Australian suppliers of laser diodes and laser pointers may choose to record your details and ask you to explain what you intend to use them for.

What about lasers powered by mains electricity?

Nope, these aren’t laser pointers, so they aren’t covered by the regulations either.

What do I think of these regulations on laser pointers?

I think these restrictions are stupid for the following reasons:

  1. Anyone with basic electronics knowledge can build a laser pointer from a few cheap parts. Powerful laser diodes up to 400 milliwatts (400 mW) can be readily obtained from DVD burners and Bluray drives. Are we going to require weapons permits for these?
  2. The regulations are bypassed if you have a mains-powered laser beam. These can be easily transported by car and powered from a car cigarette lighter socket using a mains inverter.
  3. The idiots who have been misusing laser pointers still have them. Nothing has been done to take the laser pointers away from them. If they are so concerned about them, why don’t the state or federal governments launch a laser pointer buyback program? Why don’t they offer a reward for people who dob in the idiots who’ve been shining them at aircraft?
  4. There are many legitimate applications for laser pointers that are over 1mW in power. Australians will be forced to import them, and this will harm local suppliers.

For more information

This discussion thread has lots of useful information on laser pointers including regulations, safety and a buyers guide:

http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?t=133479

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. Get your own independent advise specific to your circumstances.


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