Laser Pointer Policy

Image: Wikimedia Commons by Netweb01

1. There is absolutely no excuse or defence for the act of deliberately aiming a laser pointer, of any power, at any aircraft, vehicle or person and the Macarthur Astronomical Society condemns such actions without reservation.

2. We earnestly commit ourselves, as a Society and as individuals, to the practice that while conducting private astronomical observations and public displays we will never, ever, under any circumstances, aim our laser pointers at or anywhere near the vicinity of any passing aircraft.

3. We encourage members to keep their laser pointers securely locked up when not in use and we will always insist that members comply with the law.

Laser Pointers can be dangerous.

It’s The Law

Under the NSW Summary Offences Act:

Laser pointers are classed as “dangerous implements” and a person must not, without reasonable excuse, use or have custody of a laser pointer in a public place.

Laser pointers are defined as a “hand-held battery-operated device”. There is no distinction in this Act regarding colour/frequency nor is there any minimum output power.

It is a “reasonable excuse” for a person to use or have custody of a laser pointer for the lawful pursuit of the person’s occupation, education, training or hobby.

NSW Weapons Prohibition Regulations

Individuals who wish to obtain or continue to possess battery operated hand-held laser pointers of more than 1 milliwatt are required to apply for a Prohibited Weapons Permit and will be ‘subject to criminal and probity checks’. The permit fee is $127.00.

A person who has been a member of an approved Astronomical Society for more than three months will not be required to obtain a permit for astronomical use but may be asked to prove membership of the Society.

If you possess a laser pointer but your membership of Macarthur Astronomical Society then lapses, you may be in breach of the law and you are advised to obtain a permit or surrender the device to the police.

Federal Regulation

The Federal Government has banned the importation of laser pointers into Australia. Anyone seeking to import a laser pointer stronger than 1milliwatt must possess an appropriate exemption, which will work in the same way as for other restricted goods. The import ban allows legitimate users (including astronomers) to apply for an exemption from the ban.

Importers will need to obtain police authorisation and an import permit, so if you buy one over the internet or by mail order you will need the relevant authorisation, which needs to be obtained first from the NSW Police Firearms Registry and then from Australian Customs (see links below).

Unauthorised importations are likely to be seized by Customs.

Legal Laser Links

These useful links are updated from time to time but may sometimes become dead links, due to government agencies updating their websites:

NSW Police list of approved Astronomical Societies:  >> Here <<

NSW Police Laser Pointer page: >> Here <<

NSW Police FAQ page: >> Here <<

NSW Police Prohibited Weapon Permit page: >> Here <<

Australian Government Customs Firearms & Weapons page:  >> Here <<

Laser Pointer Safety website (American): >> Here <<

MAS Response

To assist members, Macarthur Astronomical Society has:

(a) applied for and received registration by the NSW police force as an ‘approved astronomical society’ – so that members do not have to make individual applications to the police for prohibited weapon permits;

(b) Introduced membership identity cards – to provide enhanced evidence of membership of an ‘approved astronomical society’;

(c) created a voluntary register of members who own laser pointers – to assist all parties in the event of a problem. Members may fill out as little or as much detail as they want. It is not a requirement of the new legislation but we firmly believe it is reasonable and responsible for the Society to keep such a register and that it is in your best interests to register your laser pointer details with the Society. You can download the MAS voluntary registration form > Here <

(d) Written to local police, broadly informing them of our member’s use of laser pointers within their jurisdiction.

Please Note Carefully

1. The maximum penalties for individuals contravening any state or commonwealth laser pointer laws are extremely severe.

2.  Registration of MAS by NSW Police exempts members from the legal requirement to apply for (and pay for) a NSW Prohibited Weapon Permit to own a laser pointer but:

  • it does not apply to laser pointer use for any purpose other than astronomical use.
  • it does not exempt members from having to provide a “reasonable excuse” for possession of a laser pointer in a public place.
  • it does not relieve members from the procedures required to be carried out for importing a laser pointer.
  • different laws apply outside NSW.

3. Subject to all of the above, members have a legal right to use laser pointers in pursuit of their astronomy hobby.

4. Should any member encounter any difficulty with the application of these requirements then you should contact the President or Secretary or call the NSW Police Fire Arms Registry direct at: 1300 362 562.

5. The information on this page is provided in good faith as a guide to members. However, laws may be reviewed and amended. It is the member’s responsibility to seek their own advice on matters of law.

Finally, When Using Your Laser

Please respect other members who are imaging and remember the safety of everyone and everything else around you. Even the wildlife which occupies the trees and bushes surrounding the observing field will be blinded by your beam if you carelessly aim it there. You must only aim at the sky.