Nightly News   |  October 19, 2013

Government cracks down on laser pointers

The government launches an anti-terrorism task force to combat the growing threats of using lasers to blind airline pilots. NBC’s Kristen Dahlgren reports.

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>>> another hunt is intensifying tonight for peoe who have been pointing laserst planes presenting a potentially dangerous situation for pilots. the problem is getti worse and the fbi is involved. we have more from kristen hlgren.

>>epter: pilots on approach to new york's laguardia airport this week reporte seeing something like this -- lers lighting up the cockpit, blinng themuring critical moments in flight.

>> you're causing him to look away frohe vy instruments and line-up outsidef the window he should be looking at.

>> reporter: nowhe government is cracking down, lnching an anti-terrorism task force to combat the growing reat. in 2004 there were just 46aser incidents reported to the faa. last year,ore than 3,400. the agenc predicts this year the total will top 4,000. since january the fbi reports several commercial pots suffered significant injury including aurned retina. pilot steve robertson describes it.

>> t was instant pain and rning. i wa blinded instantlyor good 15 to 20 seconds.

>> reporter: the lasers are easy to buy at office sply stes.

>> the most powerful laser you can legally owned.

>> reporter: and higher powered versions are a click away. in las vegas last december --

>> someone's shining a green laser at the aircraft. looks like just below m position.

>> reporter: the beam just 1/25 of an inch at origin can be two to three feet when it reaches an approaching aircraft.

>> the proliferati of laser pointers, increasingly powerful lasers in the hands of the public is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

>> reporter: in 2012 pointing a lar at an aircraftecame a federal offense . since then people have been charged and can face up to five year s in prison for incidts like this o caught on dallas police chopper video. the government ming it clear this is no game, especially for the pilot and passengers on board. krten dahlen, nbc news, new york.