New Burning Man Laser Policy

Pew pew
Pew pew.

While the list of things you can do at Burning Man is about as long as your imagination, the list of things you can’t do at Burning Man is very, very short. But things on that very short list are the things that can either outright kill you (weapons, speeding vehicles, serving iffy food) or screw up the environment (burning stuff right on the playa floor, visiting the hot springs during the event).

Why is the list so short? Because radical self-reliance, that’s why. We firmly believe that people should exercise their own personal responsibility when it comes to their entertainment and personal safety. The Burning Man organization has long resisted establishing rules when we could instead establish community guidelines that would accomplish the same thing. We believe in acculturation and education over creating a rule when something needs fixing — Leave No Trace is a great example.

But sometimes you have to make a rule, because it’s the right thing to do. And this is one of those times.

At the 2014 Burn, a member of our Black Rock Rangers reported that somebody in the crowd scanned her face with a laser, and that as a result she was blinded in one eye and partially blinded in the other. We didn’t know of any other incidents like this one in the 30 years of our event, but once her story went out on the airwaves, we started hearing from other folks who’d been hit by lasers but had not reported anything to us.

Laser show over BRC, 2011 (Photo by Mark Peterson)
Laser show over BRC, 2011 (Photo by Mark Peterson)

When handheld lasers first came onto the scene, they were expensive and not very powerful. In recent years, they have become stronger and more easily accessible. Lasers are now so powerful that even the handheld ones can do permanent damage to somebody standing 10 miles away. And that, by any definition, by any standard, is a weapon. And dangerous weapons — ones that can permanently and irreparably injure somebody standing literally on the other side of Black Rock City — really have no place at Burning Man.

So this is one of those times. Starting in 2015, handheld lasers will be prohibited in Black Rock City. Mounted lasers are only permitted on art pieces, Mutant Vehicles and in theme camps if they comply with specific restrictions.

To learn more, visit our Lasers page on the Burning Man website.

About the author: Burning Man

Burning Man

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man's Communications Team.

87 Comments on “New Burning Man Laser Policy

  • Franko says:

    a welcome thing. thank you.

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  • Eric says:

    Thank you! This is the right policy.

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  • david singer says:

    Thank you!!! I hated the handheld lasers.

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  • Playa Cruize says:

    A very costly way to finally hear what people have been saying for years. Thank you for making the right decision.

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  • Ulan says:

    My heart goes out to Ms. Hoversten.
    http://www.gofundme.com/eyebeam

    With luck, she will be last to suffer this fate. Thank you for this decision. I support it fully.

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  • cricket says:

    This will allow fire and light art to perform as I suspect the artists intended: without squiggly handheld light beam intrusions. I like that.

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  • Dr. Yes says:

    An excellent decision.

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  • Ranger Climber says:

    This was a very smart decision. Nobody wants bad rules, but this is clearly a good rule and I stand behind it 100%

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  • Foxfur says:

    While this generally violates my Keep Burning Man Potentially Fatal principle I’m actually quite happy to see it. Nice job.

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  • Xander says:

    While I heartily approve of the rule, and look forward to a laser free temple…

    I can’t help but wonder: How is this going to be enforced? And by whom?

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    • RR says:

      The primary means of enforcement, like everything else at Burning Man, will be for participants to self-enforce, inform, and educate.

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      • Boogly-boo says:

        …and failing self-enforcement (as is sometimes the case with the highly-dangerous Chinese lanterns), Black Rock Rangers are the last nice people you’ll talk to about it, I’d wager.

        Best idea is not to bring them at all, or who knows what will happen to your expensive toy.

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      • Jessica Spurling says:

        “The primary means of enforcement, like everything else at Burning Man, will be for participants to self-enforce, inform, and educate.”?

        That’s worked *so* well for the sound policy.

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  • Retro says:

    Perfect. I cannot tell you how annoyed people around me were that every nighttime art display was covered with jiggly dots. Good Call!

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  • Bunny says:

    The LOL factor about all of this is that it can’t be enforced without increasing the BR Ranger force by a factor of 10. But then again, BR Rangers have little much else to do out there aside sewing patches on their uniforms, so maybe anti-laser enforcement will give them a constant purpose to help them feel like real cops.

    Simply banning lasers is not going to stop people from bringing lasers. Banning dogs worked because you can’t stick a dog in your pocket. I think BMorg underestimates how many hand-held lasers are out there, and the effort it would take to confiscate them all, or even a significant portion.

    The burns are going to be interrupted by BR rangers hassling laser owners to give it up. The ensuing arguments are going to harsh everyone’s vibe. So instead of watching peacefully as the Temple burns (with a few lasers dancing around), you’re going to hear a lot of other shit about ‘give me your laser’. Not only will the Rangers become even more annoying than they are now – you’ll have vigilante burners trying to confiscate lasers left and right.

    This might even be the catalyst that causes and all-out brawl on the playa. I can’t wait!

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    • Tony B says:

      Hi Bunny.
      Wow, that’s an interesting perspective. You know, you can put fireworks in your pocket, but they don’t seem to be a problem, though they were commonplace when the event first came to the playa.
      I imagine that the org is generally relying on the community enforcing the laser ban moreso than the rangers. “Put that away” coming from a crowd of people around someone is generally effective.
      In 20 years I’ve yet to see a ranger standing around arguing with a person in a crowd about firearms or fireworks, and I imagine that a year into things, this will be the same way.
      Have a good burn,
      -Tony

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      • Bunny says:

        @Tony B
        >I’ve yet to see a ranger standing around arguing with a person in a crowd about firearms or fireworks

        That’s probably because LEOs handle the confiscation of fireworks and the issuing of fines.

        I don’t think LEOs are going to be confiscating lasers since there’s no law against having them, only a rule. It would fall on the Org to enforce their rules. And people aren’t going to be too happy about having their personal property confiscated even if it is against a rule.

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      • Meercom says:

        “And people aren’t going to be too happy about having their personal property confiscated even if it is against a rule.”

        I’m sure they’ll let the laser-fascinated people keep their toys if they leave the city.

        Black Rock City, like any other city, works best when citizens are educated and educate others. Even low power lasers (and it’s impossible to tell because some of these Chinese imports are mislabeled to make it past customs) can permanently injure.

        Leave it at home; even better, if you can’t bring yourself to part with that expensive toy, just don’t come to Black Rock City.

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      • Bunny says:

        @ Meercom
        >I’m sure they’ll let the laser-fascinated people keep their toys if they leave the city.

        But who are going to escort these disgusting rule breakers off the property? If people refuse to give up their lasers then the Org is going to need a lot more boy scouts to kick their asses home. Or the rangers are going to need to be trained how to confiscate personal property while bluffing that they’ll be kicked out if they don’t surrender their lasers.

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      • Tony B says:

        Bunny said:
        “No. Every year I see people getting nabbed for fireworks by LEO. They hunt them because it’s an easy ticket. You don’t have BR Rangers calling it in whenever they see a firecracker. The cops are more than happy to profit from the fireworks folks.”

        Do you mean to say “yes, and also…” as opposed to “no.”

        Got a scanner? Ever listen to the radio?
        Ever walk a shift with, or as, a ranger?

        Just curiosity on my part, because after 20 years on the playa, my experience is very different than what you report.

        Looks like you are having a bad day. Cheer up man!

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      • Bunny says:

        @Tony B
        >Do you mean to say “yes, and also…” as opposed to “no.”

        I think you’re getting confused. I mean, NO – BR Rangers don’t call Law Enforcement every time they see someone lighting a firework, I hope… BR Rangers can’t possibly be doing that to their fellow Burners – turning them into the cops for minor infractions. Do BR Rangers also call the cops when they suspect a Burner is toking on a joint? That can’t possibly be true. If it is, then you should all be fired, tarred and feathered.

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      • Sleestak says:

        Bunny, why do you think possession/use of a handheld laser is a “non-finable offense”? BLM unquestionably has the authority to ban lasers in the Closure Order they issue every year for the event. If BLM does so, participants with a laser can be cited, fined, arrested, and ejected from the event.

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    • Boogly-boo says:

      I see the burners.me contingent has shown up with something to prove: their arrogance and ignorance.

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      • Tony B says:

        I thought I’d respond to this comment:
        “That’s probably because LEOs handle the confiscation of fireworks and the issuing of fines. ”
        Eh- yeah, if they are called. I do know that staff/vols have asked people to “please put that away because…” on certain things. It just doesn’t seem to produce an argument if done tactfully.
        And this one:
        “I don’t think LEOs are going to be confiscating lasers since there’s no law against having them, only a rule. It would fall on the Org to enforce their rules.”
        Well, actually… there are rules to the event and LE can eject or arrest anyone not following them. Try going 25MPH on the esplanade and you’ll see what I mean. No law against it, but it is a condition of entry to the event. And if you are at the event but not complying to conditions, you are trespassing…
        So there is a path for escalating a situation if there is a participant that is being really foolish/antisocial and really persistent and obstinate about continuing to act that way.
        But then again, I don’t make policy. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t be so pessimistic about crowd enforcement, ranger interactions, or LE’s cooperation in rule enforcement as a last resort.

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      • Bunny says:

        @Tony B

        >Eh- yeah, if they are called.

        No. Every year I see people getting nabbed for fireworks by LEO. They hunt them because it’s an easy ticket. You don’t have BR Rangers calling it in whenever they see a firecracker. The cops are more than happy to profit from the fireworks folks.

        >there are rules to the event and LE can eject or arrest anyone not following them.

        There’s no money in it for LEOs to use their time and resources to evict someone on a non-finable offense to some made up rule or the Org.. If someone is driving recklessly on the playa, they’ll get a ticket for driving recklessly = profit, and worth their time. If someone has a laser, LEOs aren’t going to waste their time.

        The job will be left BR Rangers.

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    • Peace says:

      I absolutely believe that Bunny has been to Burning Man, but you wouldn’t think that based on her comments. This will be “enforced” by social pressure like so many things on playa. Try dropping some moop in front a crowd of regular Burners and see what happens. If you are using a laser, everyone around you knows and guess what, they’ve been annoyed by it for years. Now they have permission to tell you to stop and the Burners I know are not shy about keeping the playa awesome for everyone. If you want a nice dose of shame bombing, just pull out a laser at the Temple burn this year. This has been a community desire for some time and it will be the community that gently but firmly “enforces” it.

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      • Bunny says:

        @Peace

        >This will be “enforced” by social pressure like so many things on playa.

        This rule will empower participants to feel they have a right to go up to someone with a laser and demand they hand it over. Because rules. Sophomoric megalomania is already out of control on the playa, this is new rule will be like throwing fuel on that fire.

        “Jeans is not a costume!” “Participate don’t spectate!” “Five miles an hour!” So all the little enforcers out there will have something tangible now to put their sophomoric righteousness behind. “Oh my gawd, Susie, that man has a laser! Let’s stop what we’re doing and chase him down for the benefit of the community.”

        So you have 40% virgins and most don’t read the survival guide. All of their lasers are going this year. Then you have the frat boys who don’t give a fuck. The tourists who don’t give a fuck. Thousands of lasers will be out there this year and next and they’re not going to stop bringing them. Instead, what you’re going to have is a lot of bad karma, people yelling at each other about the rules. But the rules – the rules! You’re violating the rules!

        As I said earlier, it’s a recipe for disaster during something like burn night. I could see many people going to blows over this kind of thing.

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      • Peace says:

        Bunny, I think you need to hang out with a better crowd. Most virgins read the survival guide and are very respectful of the intended chaos and freedom found on the playa. I actually think they are a bit more respectful than many of the crusty veterans that think the event belongs to them. I get a lot of “you’re doing it wrong” on the interwebs, almost never on the playa. Disrespectful virgins and Bros make up a very small portion of the population. Again, I do believe you have been to Burning Man, it just seems like your experience is very different than most of us.

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      • G says:

        Or, for example try shirt cocking, and see how much disapproval will come your way. There some social mores at BRC.

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      • Bunny says:

        @Peace
        >Again, I do believe you have been to Burning Man

        That’s nice. I’m not sure you’ve actually been, though.

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    • brc employee says:

      Quit whining. Fucking hippies. You’re ruining this event. Every rule you add makes way for another.

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    • Bunny_Sux_Playa_Bawlz says:

      Bunny, you are uninformed. I can tell you don’t know anything about BR Rangers, you just “think” you know. The most dangerous thing in the world today is to “believe” what you “think” instead of arming yourself with facts.

      I think adding another rule like this is terrible. We are already the victim of so many rules/laws in Defaultia, but you know what?

      You can’t fix STUPID. And unfortunately, the ratio of stupids at Bman seems to be on the rise. Too many people that can’t handle their chemicals and leave their brain at the gate, and don’t contribute.

      It’s just too bad the person responsible for blinding Ranger Halston didn’t also accidentally/on purpose blind themselves first.

      And so, thanks to completely moronic comments like the one I’m replying to here, and the rapidly falling IQ of the average new school if mainstream burners, we’ve got a new law.

      I agree that lasers are annoying in the wrong hands, and they are also pretty dangerous as we have now discovered the hard way. But the play night sky will miss them, I will miss them, and we only have ourselves to blame. We all should have karate-chopped anyone witnessed shining a laser where it could hit someone in the eye.

      Radical Inclusion has gone too far, when we have to radically include clueless people that would purposely shine a laser in another’s eye.

      Maybe it was you, eh Bunny? You don’t like Rangers, maybe you thought you’d teach them a lesson?

      The event cannot exist without the Rangers, pure and simple. They resolve the many conflicts on playa in a non-physical non-punishment non-confrontational manner. They insulate our community from LEO as much as is possible, keeping participants from being thrown in paddy wagons for having a good time.

      But apparently you’d like it more if there was just a few hundred more cops at Burning Man?

      Be careful what you wish for.

      This laser ban may be the right thing to do and it may be necessary to ensure safety on the playa, but ALL OF YOU should be very very afraid of this trend. I’m afraid this is but another symptom that the event is about to jump the shark for good, if it hasn’t already. The masses are ruining it with their stupidity.

      We do need to self-educate, and if necessary self-police. The future of BRC depends on it.

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  • Sheck says:

    Hurray! I found the laser lights bouncing on the temple to be quite annoying. “Don’t Lase me, bro!”

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  • Elliot says:

    Shaky laser dots all over art are fucking annoying. Love this new rule, hopefully people get the message.

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  • turnerbroadcast says:

    The vast majority of all handheld lasers are pretty weak; It should be noted that any laser powered and placed anywhere else, should be checked for static mount. I think a good way to go, that wouldn’t be very expensive, is to have a little specialized zip tie that , when the mutant vehicle is inspected, gets the little zip tie to verify that it stays on its mount. That way , it stays there until breakdown. The tie would cost maybe 5 cents a piece , or generic ones for almost free. IF anyone out there thinks its cool to whip a laser around in the sky and blast the ground or scan flat across head level – we can use the zip ties on THEM.

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  • Likey says:

    This is a great rule! Thank you. Next can we ban naked hipsters who go around asking for cheese?

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  • Andy Daniel says:

    Completely agree with this new policy. In addition to the safety, lighting up someone else’s art or performance with your laser dot is not radical self-expression, it’s taking away from other people’s enjoyment – like texting in a dark movie theater.

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    • Amir says:

      banning driving 100 mph also takes away form some people’s enjoyment, but the benefits of the prohibition outweigh the loss of enjoyment… get over it and find another way to self-express

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  • Moxie says:

    How can this even be enforced? And what’s the point of making unenforceable rules? Are the feds going to confiscate lasers?

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  • Kevin says:

    I think it’s right to read this ban as banning handheld “lasers” and not “laser pointers”. If BM ORG really wants to ban 5mW red laser pointers, can someone pipe up?

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    • Will Chase says:

      Because of the difficulty in discerning the difference between dangerous and non-dangerous handheld lasers — and because you don’t want to be wrong — it’s been decided to prohibit all handheld lasers.

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    • Meercom says:

      Is it a laser?

      Can you hold it in your hand?

      If you’ve answered yes to both questions, it’s prohibited.

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      • Stargazer says:

        The only real unfortunate consequence is those who wished to use them to point out stars for stargazing. The lasers were excellent aids to those showing constellations or planets easily.

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  • Glowboy says:

    OK, so what if we just mount lasers to our headlamps on our heads? Or what if we mount them to our shoes so that our feet are always pointing the way? Or what if I mount lasers to my backpack? I’m just curious, as well as trying to be incredibly annoying with my comments. But on the serious, this is a great rule. At some point my daughter will be joining me at the burns and I would never forgive myself if she got laser sniped and blinded on the playa. That shit would suck major fucking ass balls. Hashtagkeeplasersawayfromthedrugchildren

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  • Amir says:

    Much welcomed new policy that deals with one of the most annoying and dangerous parts of the event!!! Enforcement is going to be an issue… maybe another post in the near future giving guidance on how the community should respond to people with hand-held lasers. Thanks guys!!!

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  • Kevin says:

    A lot of people don’t know how dangerous these things really are. I saw a guy shooting a handheld blue laser into the crowd last year at very close range and I told him to stop and he didn’t even realize that anything might be wrong with what he was doing. Education education education!

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    • Tony B says:

      Thanks Kevin. This is called “community enforcement.”
      Burningman’s existence seems to rely on that as a primary means of maintaining peace and en event safe within reason.

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  • Stephanie says:

    As a certified LSO (laser safety officer) and laser tech., this is exactly what needs to be done, honestly if people showed up and used them still and pointed them at people and things I truly hope they kick them completely out of the event, so so so dangerous! And just plan idiocy and rude!

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  • JV says:

    Enforcement will be done via other burners, mostly, just like MOOP. It will become part of the culture and any time someone whips out a laser, they will be instantly reminded by someone near them. This first year might be a little rocky, but it’ll even out.

    I always kinda liked the lasers, it adds to the surreality of the nighttime landscape, but this is probably a good rule. Hey look, I agree with something the BMORG did!

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  • Uncle Bullhorn says:

    The right decision.

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  • DrTune says:

    As a person who has taken artwork featuring lasers to the playa several times, I think this is an awesome idea.
    I always take laser safety extremely seriously because I really prefer my eyesight without black dots on it from retinal burns..
    My lasers are on fixed mountings, project on a fixed screen, are positioned well above human height, and I use minimal power. What drives me FUCKING NUTS is those asshats with handheld lasers shining them on art; so ugly and so lame.
    I definitely don’t trust them to know what’s safe and isn’t; I doubt they have a clue about the often scarily dangerous invisible IR emissions from cheap green DPSS laser pointers…

    Fave lasers from past years include the beast they had on the aptly named “Church of Wow” (..10watts or something?) and that year they did lasers from center camp to the man and 3/9 o’clock… All safe, and all pretty.

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  • mrSparkl3z says:

    Good decision. Handheld lasers are a nuisance and nobody wants to get black spots in their vision or worse!

    Lasers are still awesome though, when used properly. ;)

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  • Vanessa says:

    What about bike-mounted safety lasers that only project onto the ground behind you?

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  • Cull Strider says:

    What if, instead of a “rule,” everyone was simply asked — officially, by the organizers — not to use them at the event? And have it explained to them why, for them to voluntarily comply? I don’t believe we always need rules, punishments, threats of consequences to make people comply. “Rules” should be the last tool in the arsenal.

    Anyway, I agree with the no-laser sentiment. Thanks. Just maybe take it easy with the “rules.” I hate, hate, hate rules. Coming from Toronto, where there are rules everywhere for everything, I hate rules with a passion.

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  • BenZ says:

    “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

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    • Jazz says:

      I agree. But what we have now at BM is a total shift in demographics – between those who understand that sentiment, and those who don’t; those who crave safety and security above all else.

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    • Peace says:

      A really misguided use of an awesome quote. Franklin wasn’t suggesting we should have the freedom to harm others. Your freedom to do what you like ends at the tip of my nose, and certainly my retinas. Based on your logic, laws against murder are infringing on your freedom.

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      • Cindery says:

        Peace: “Your freedom to do what you like ends at the tip of my nose.”

        Not anymore. Your freedom to do what you like ends at how I feel about that.

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    • Peace says:

      The playa will still offer you plenty of chances to die of your own neglect or stupidity. Darwin is still in full force at BM.

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  • Dr Evil says:

    Can I mount “lasers” on my sharks?

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  • john says:

    I think this new policy blows, allow me to explain. I am a photographer who uses handheld lasers for trick photography, modeling and other long exposure photo tricks. The thousands of lasers that shine on the man is an amazing show to behold. The colorful lasers add to the amazing festival and taking that away truly disappoints. Its a shame a few have to spoil it for the rest. That being said they will still be used, just like fireworks are which are banned but always make an appearance.

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    • Will Chase says:

      John, this policy only bans *handheld* lasers, not ones mounted on Mutant Vehicles, art installations or in theme camps. So there will still be lasers and laser shows, just not the dangerous kind where Joe Blow Burner is standing in a crowd waving around a high-powered one in his less-than-responsible hand. Sorry if this impacts your trick photography.

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  • jasonwentcrazy says:

    Making this an ‘Official Rule’ doesn’t necessarily mean there will be higher than normal efforts to rid the event of the lasers or those that have them. It merely drives home the fact that it’s a serious situation and gives some more solid recourse beyond saying, “Hey, man. Not cool.” when someone uses these things in a meathead way.

    I think that there are a lot of people out there that genuinely don’t know the potential damage these things can cause and maybe the most important thing that can come from this new policy is that it stands to educate the uninformed.

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  • Barbara says:

    I haven’t been to an event but I’ve been so interested. I just want to say something… handheld laser can reach over 16 miles. They are capable of blinding a pilot flying commercial jets. So are they are dangerous. Even the ones that are used as cat toys. They aren’t just toys. Y’all realize too that police, snipers etc use laser on weapons to kill. Really just that association makes me find them unenjoyable. Also they serve no purpose.. they don’t light your path in the dark, they don’t help you find your friends in a crowd. Just don’t bring them. You’re all grow adults, these events are to find a commonality. I think u all are capable of keeping the ban and the peace. Isn’t that part of what the event is all about…PEACE. So Peace Out and have an awesome beautiful time. Thank you for reading.

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  • so sad says:

    I dissagree with the ban, I always loved the lasers out there, but this just comes down to the same old debate “guns don’t kill people, people do”
    And just like that debate it only takes one bad person for the blame be shifted to the device and not the person useing it. I have brought lasers there for years and had hundreds of people tell me how great the show I put on was, I only had 2 people bitch at me, not for hitting anyone with the beam, but they just didn’t like it.
    I thnk more should be put on education and less on bans, but just like the car passes, instead of just asking, they get sold to reduce traffic, err I mean to add stress on the people going.
    There are better ways of dealing with things like this, but it must be a Cali thing, “Lets ban everything we don’t like”
    BTW did you know fire is dangerous and kills lots of people every year, that should be banned too.
    Don’t worry I won’t be bringing my lasers anymore, (BTW I have never hit a person there with a laser)
    And did you know that most of the mounted lasers are way more powerfull than handhelds, and I saw the crowd get scanned there alot by them.
    If anyone there trys to confiscate something from anyone there, that is not illegal, and it turns to force, there will be lawsuits and/or prison time, so make sure you have a good set of rules on how to deal with the lasers, just saying you want to keep your rangers safe.

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  • Not Blind...yet says:

    It will be interesting to see how many dopes blind themselves while trying to prove that their laser is safe…
    Gate educating, Community education, Ranger educating, ejection, or LEO and ejection. easy to implement. frustrating for all parties who have to deal with the idiots who bring lasers. Dare I say, hand-held laser abusers are even worse than the muggles who leave beer bottles in the blueroom.

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  • Frederico says:

    So… If I have a laser in my headband, whilst pounding my lover missionary style, Is that laser considered to be “mounted”?

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  • Ghost says:

    The use of handheld lasers are a problem. From working at DMV my eyes were ‘flashed’ by a laser mounted on a vehicle which temporarily blinded me. When working on Manwatch I observed a participant demonstrate how his handheld laser could scorch and ignite the wood at the man. Neither of these examples are particularly positive. The difference between a “pointer” and a “laser” is somewhat subtle, but as the handheld unit gets more powerful it loses its status as a pointer and becomes an object of some lethality. So yes people will get upset, they will feel hasseled, but these people potentially will cause harm, and yes such a person in Nevada can be sued for damages/injury to a person. Responsibility does not end at the gate. Ghost

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  • poca says:

    Thank you so much! I got pulled out of the way of a handheld laser the other day after my friends realized I didn’t know it was dangerous. I agree, this policy not only protects, it helps educate a core group on safe play who can help spread the message into the larger dance and art community. The world is a beautiful place to see.

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  • The statement “Lasers are now so powerful that even the handheld ones can do permanent damage to somebody standing 10 miles away” is completely wrong.

    People need to understand the difference between actual eye damage, potential eye damage, temporary flashblindness, glare, and distraction. For any given laser, each of these can occur at a different distance.

    Here are the hazard distances of the most powerful handheld laser widely sold on the Internet as of April 2015. It is 2 watts (2000 mW) assumes a 1.5 milliradian beam divergence, and is the brightest-appearing color of green (532 nm):

    Actual eye damage: 218 feet, meaning “a 50/50 chance of a 1/4 second exposure causing the smallest medically detectable change to the retina”. Such an injury may not be noticed by the person, and may heal naturally like a small skin burn heals.

    Nominal eye damage: 691 feet, meaning a 1/4 second exposure would have a “vanishingly small” chance of causing any change to the retina

    Temporary flashblindness: 3,269 feet. This will leave afterimages just like a camera flash

    Glare: 2.8 miles. “Glare” means the light is so bright it blocks part of your vision, but it is not bright enough to leave afterimages

    Distraction: 28 miles. The light does not interfere with vision, but is brighter than typical city or airport lights as seen from the air.

    (The 1/4 second time is used because government policy for accidental exposures is that people have a natural “aversion reflex” causing them to blink or otherwise move out of a bright, unwanted laser light within 1/4 second.)

    I do not know if Burning Man’s new policy was made believing incorrectly that a handheld laser can do permanent eye damage at a distance of 10 miles. There’s quite a difference between 218 feet — which may or may not cause a permanent injury — and 52,800 feet!

    Certainly there are other good reasons for the Burning Man handheld laser ban.

    But I did want to bring to everyone’s attention that one of the stated reasons is completely incorrect based on internationally accepted laser safety standards. No one should go away from this thinking that a handheld visible-light laser can cause permanent damage at 10 miles.

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    • G says:

      What you write make lasers sound relatively safe and not such a big deal.
      As such, I would love to hear you hypothesize how the Ranger last year managed to be blinded.

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    • G says:

      Upon some further thought . .

      “Actual eye damage: 218 feet, meaning “a 50/50 chance of a 1/4 second exposure causing the smallest medically detectable change to the retina. . . . . Such an injury may not be noticed by the person, and may heal naturally like a small skin burn heals.”
      Hmmmm. Then what the hell kind of laser hit her in the face? I mean humans tend to blink or look way reflexively, which is something I read about in my research I did before taking my 24 laser pointer grade lasers on my eight fingers out there a few years ago. Whatever hit her in the face must have been more than 2 watts?
      Any educated guesses?

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      • Tino says:

        Any educated guesses?

        Does anyone know this blinded ranger personally? I’m starting to suspect that this may all be a ruse to ban lasers. It’s starting to seem a bit too convenient, given everyone’s underline desire to see lasers banned at the burns. I suppose it’s possible to be randomly blinded by a laser, but also very unlikely.

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      • Greg Walljasper says:

        Ummmm, I was actually hoping for a direct on topic reply from Patrick Murphy.

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      • NotIt says:

        @Tino,

        Yes, there are many that know this Ranger personally. Yes, it did happen. Ruse on.

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  • roler says:

    Great idea. Too many people do not appreciate the harm lasers can do. It only takes a few thoughtless people with lasers to to real harm to folks. I hope the ranger’s eyesight improves.

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  • poca says:

    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1005818

    “In the past, laser pointers sold to the public had a maximal output of 5 mW, which is regarded as harmless because the human eye protects itself with blink reflexes… However, powerful laser devices, with a power of up to 700 mW, are now easily obtainable through the Internet, despite government restrictions. These high-power lasers are advertised as “laser pointers” and look identical to low-power pointers (Figure 1D). The much higher power of such devices may produce immediate, severe retinal injury. Despite their potential to cause blinding, such lasers are advertised as fun toys…” (New England Journal of Medicine, 2010)

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  • Tony B says:

    An article on laser pointers:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-a-pocket-laser-damage/

    But the thing is, we don’t know that every hand held laser is an over-the-counter pointer.
    What we do know is that we have a blinded volunteer.

    I had speculated that the org could not, at the advice of lawyers or their insurance provider, continue with “deliberate indifference” towards a known risk that has been manifested.

    I don’t know what the back-room dealings are, but this is the only thing that made sense to me from a legal standpoint, even if you ignore the ethical considerations.

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  • Will Chase says:

    @Tino your cynicism is remarkable to the point that I can’t tell if you’re trolling. Yes, of course we know her personally. http://blog.burningman.com/2015/03/tales-from-the-playa/theres-a-black-dot-in-the-middle-of-everything-i-see/

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  • Sweetheart says:

    I would imagine if any one of us lost the sight in 1 eye and became partially blind in another eye, it might be considered a somewhat traumatic and life changing event. I feel that sometimes someone’s right to bring a super dangerous item….such as for instance a home made nuclear fission reactor art piece that might accidentally blow up and vaporize everyone and turn the sand to class might also be disallowed…just saying….

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