The sale of long-range green laser pointers, which have temporarily blinded and disoriented pilots in the New York City area and nationwide, should be banned, Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday.
At a news conference in Schumer's Manhattan office, one of four commercial pilots there said he was hit by a high-powered green laser pointer, which lit up his cockpit, forcing him to look away minutes before landing at LaGuardia Airport in 2012.
Veteran pilot Adam Chronas said he was over the Hudson River when he saw the light.
"We called it into air traffic control," Chronas said. "A NYPD helicopter was sent out to find the person, but they were never caught."
The lasers could be used by terrorists to bring down airplanes, said Schumer (D-N.Y.) The devices are cheap and easy to buy online and at trinket stores.
"Green lasers are the weapons of choice being used for evil purposes," he said. "We know terrorists are always looking for areas of weak points."
The lasers "should not take years but months," to ban, said Schumer, adding they can impair vision and possibly end pilots' careers. "There is no good reason for them to be legal."
Chronas said he suffered a headache after being hit by the laser.
Gabe Rubin, a 22-year pilot, said they are trained to look away from the lasers because they can seriously damage the eye. He said he has experienced three episodes of lasers hitting his plane in two years.
Aiming green laser lights at aircraft "is no different than lighting up a cigarette in the bathroom of a plane," said Rubin, adding that a colleague who suffered severe eye damage from a green laser pointer will never fly again.
Schumer said he is confident the Food and Drug Administration will ban the green lasers after it reviews its policy rules on the high-powered laser lights. They are "intended for use only by licensed medical professionals, trained operators, or other approved users," according to the FDA website.
The agency says it "is working to identify manufacturers of overpowered green, blue and violet laser pointers and other illegal laser products and will take action to prevent unsafe products from being sold in the United States."
Last week, a Bronx man was charged with pointing a green laser at a commercial plane at LaGuardia. The case was referred to federal prosecutors at the Southern District of New York, said Bronx district attorney spokesman Terry Raskyn.