Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation Thursday that would have banned the sale of most laser pointers, including those used by professionals during presentations.
Christie said that the measure was unnecessary and that there already are state and federal criminal penalties for people who target others or aircraft with laser pointers.
The bill, S-418, would have banned the sale of laser pointers with one milliwatt of power. Current federal regulations allow for the sale of laser pointers with up to five milliwatts of power.
The governor said the bill “goes well beyond the federal standards and would ban a whole class of one- to five-milliwatt laser pointers currently for sale at office supply stores as well as by the largest online retailers in the United States.
“Indeed, this legislation would ban the sale of one of the most common classes of consumer laser pointers, which are not typically used by criminals, but by business professionals to deliver presentations,” he continued.
“Tellingly, the Legislature points to no instance of this class of laser pointer being used by even a single criminal in New Jersey,” he said.
The ban, Christie said, would interfere with lawful commerce.
“The criminal laws already protecting New Jersey residents from the dangerous misuse of laser pointers would not be bolstered by an arbitrary one-milliwatt sales restriction that is inconsistent with federal standards,” he said.
The legislation would have imposed civil penalties of up to $500 for a first offense and up to $1,000 for each subsequent offense. The Department of Law and Public Safety’s Division of Consumer Affairs would have been in charge of policing the ban.
The bill first passed the Senate in a 39-0 vote in June 2012. It passed the Assembly this past June in a 70-7 vote, with opposition coming from a group of Republican lawmakers.
The Assembly amended the bill by exempting laser pointers attached to firearms. The Senate, on Aug. 19, gave final passage in a 36-1 vote.
In New Jersey, targeting a person is considered an assault and can be punished by up to 10 years in prison if there is serious bodily injury.
Targeting aircraft is considered interference with transportation and carries similar penalties, depending on the seriousness of the offense.
Federal law provides for a prison term of up to five years for targeting an aircraft.
“Presumably, the purpose of this bill is to deter the dangerous misuse of laser pointers. State and federal lawmakers, however, have already acted to prevent that misconduct,” Christie said.
Existing state and federal criminal penalties deter the dangerous misuse of laser pointers, he added.
The legislation’s chief sponsor, Sen. Jefferson Van Drew, D-Cape May, did not respond to a request for comment. •