Editorial | Welcome Harmony on Laser Rules

December 13, 2012 

Kudos to Myrtle Beach leaders for moving this week to bring the city’s ordinance governing the sale of laser pointers in line with the rule that Horry County is considering. Too many rules on the Grand Strand differ by municipality and city boundaries, an issue that has gotten better in recent years but which continues to vex residents, visitors and businesses.

The different rules create a number of problems. They’re confusing for the area’s many visitors, who pay little attention to where one city stops and another begins. Are tents allowed on this stretch of beach? Can I smoke at this restaurant? What’s the sales tax here? Can I shoot off my fireworks here? Even residents often can’t keep track of what rules apply where. And the many doughnut holes of unincorporated areas inside cities just add to the problem. The varying ordinances can also be a headache for businesses, which must keep track and follow often competing rules.

In North Myrtle Beach, for instance, 17-year-olds can buy and possess a laser, but they’d better think twice before heading a few miles south into Myrtle Beach. That city has decided you must be 18 before you can be trusted with a laser pointer. Go a few miles further south and Surfside Beach now has no rule at all.

In recent years, the Coastal Alliance, a group of local mayors and the Horry County Council chairman, has been working to unify many of these rules to provide some welcome consistency up and down our coast. So Myrtle Beach’s decision to amend its ordinance on lasers is more than a common sense restriction on selling these frustrating safety risks to those most likely to shine them at aircraft. It’s a good policy decision and a welcome move toward simplifying local rules from one end of Horry County to another.

Surfside Beach Mayor Doug Samples said on Thursday that he hopes to follow suit as soon as the county finalizes its rule, which could be early next year. Town Council members have discussed putting limitations in place informally, Samples said, and “We do want to adopt something. We want it to be uniform.”

A law limiting laser sales in Surfside Beach would happily complete a blanket of restrictions on lasers up and down Horry County’s coast, with the possible exception of Atlantic Beach, which has trouble passing the simplest ordinances these days, let alone enforcing them consistently. Though North Myrtle Beach already has its own rule limiting the sale of lasers, it would do well to consider amending it to conform with the county and Myrtle Beach. The best outcome would be for such a wide-ranging – and consistent – limitation to be in place well before tourist season gets under way next spring and summer.

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