Myrtle Beach Council strengthens ordinance regulating green lasers

Anyone purchasing a handheld laser pointer – popularly called green lasers – in Myrtle Beach soon could have to sign a receipt containing written warnings about improper use of the device, if the City Council approves an ordinance introduced Tuesday.

The measure, a response to complaints about the lights, is an attempt to beef up an ordinance passed in September that made it unlawful for minors to possess laser pointers in public unless under adult supervision, and for anyone to shine the pointers at a person, animal car, airplane or helicopter.

Under the proposed ordinance, the city would define laser pointers as contraband if they are used unlawfully, have more than 1 milliwatt output,or the person providing the pointer does not have technical specifications confirming the laser’s output is 1 milliwatt or less. The laser pointer would be subject to immediate confiscation, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance mirrors an ordinance that passed first reading in the Horry County Council last month, according to city manager Tom Leath.

“We’ll hold (off) a second reading and see what the county does at third reading,” Leath said during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “If we can live with their changes we can make them at second reading.”

City attorney Tom Ellenburg said that the hope is for the Myrtle Beach and Horry County ordinance to mirror each other and that other municipalities follow suit.

The proposed ordinances in Myrtle Beach and Horry County come after several incidents in which green lasers were pointed at helicopters flown by the U.S. Coast Guard during search and rescue missions on the Grand Strand, most recently in Garden City Beach the first week of August.

The council hoped state legislators who represent the county would be able to introduce a bill to the S.C. General Assembly in January, but at a November joint meeting state lawmakers urged the Myrtle Beach and Horry County councils to move forward with their own versions of the law.

According to the new ordinance, merchants caught selling laser pointers to minors could face the suspension or revocation of their business license. Parents or guardians of minors who use laser pointers improperly will be held responsible for the minor’s misuse.

Adults, parents or guardians responsible for minors and 17-year-olds who violate the ordinance would be guilty of a misdemeanor could be fined up to $500 and imprisoned for up to 30 days. Minors 16 or younger could be prosecuted in family court.