SYDNEY (Reuters) - A major Australian state has banned laser pointers after a spate of incidents in which aircraft pilots have been temporarily blinded, the government said on Monday.
High-powered hand lasers, including so-called "star pointers" used by astronomers, would be listed as prohibited weapons in New South Wales state with jail terms of up to 14 years for anyone carrying them without a permit.
"It is a gutless and cowardly act that could result in an horrific outcome. It only takes a fraction of a second for a pilot to become temporarily blinded and that could have catastrophic consequences," said state Premier Morris Iemma.
Several pilots have recently reported high-intensity lasers being shone into their cockpits during take-offs and landings, and police recently enlisted intelligence agencies to help combat what papers called "laser lunatics."
The latest incident occurred over Sydney's south at the weekend when an ambulance helicopter was hit by a green beam.
The ban will build on planned national importation controls announce by the federal government earlier this month, treating laser pointers like firearms.
"It's destructive, dangerous behavior which needs a coordinated response across Australia," said Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus.
Reporting by Rob Taylor, editing by Sanjeev Miglani