The school nurse called Cole’s mother and suggested she take her son to the hospital immediately.
Doctors said the laser ripped a layer of the cornea off of Cole’s eye, exposing all the nerves, according to Cole’s mother, Annette DeBord.
Cole still suffers from blurred vision occasionally and has to return to the doctor every six months for a checkup, his mother said.
Gorman said she’s treated two children whose eyes were damaged by other students playing with laser pointers. She’s pushed the St. Joseph City Council to consider passing an ordinance similar to those in other cities.
Across the state line in Lenexa, Kan., the City Council recently passed a law that prohibits people under 18 from having laser pointers outside of their residence except when it’s related to a school or employment activity.
The Lenexa ordinance also makes it a crime to illuminate uniformed officers, including police, fire, ambulance and security.
Two teen-age boys in Shawnee, Kan., were arrested late last year after they allegedly “dotted” a police officer who was parked near the boys’ home.
“There is absolutely no way to tell the difference between a laser pointer and a laser-sighted gun,” said state Rep. John Toplikar, who has introduced a bill regulating powerful laser pointer to the House Judiciary Committee. “When kids shine these on police, they’re taking a risk that a weapon can be pulled on them.”
That’s exactly what happened in Meriden, Conn. The city banned laser pointers after officers pulled their guns on teen-agers in a shopping mall, thinking the teens were spotting them with laser gunsights.
Both Toplikar’s bill and a separate proposal introduced Wednesday to the House Health and Human Services Committee would make it illegal for anyone to aim a laser pointer at a police officer or emergency worker.
The bill before the health committee would outlaw selling the pointers to anyone under 18.
“I have some serious concerns about it, and I’m not sure to what extent we can get into it,” said Chairman Garry Boston.
Boston, R-Newton, said the bill will be held in his committee until the 2000 session, and he said he might ask for an interim committee to study the issue this summer.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings about the pointers and last year required manufacturers to include warning labels about potential eye damage.
In addition to protecting police officers, Toplikar’s bill would make it a violation of state law to point a laser at anyone “intentionally and knowingly with intent to injure, harass, annoy or alarm.” Doing so could result in up to $ 1,000 fine or six months in jail.
Toplikar said he modeled his proposal after similar bills across the country.
“I don’t want to make any kid a criminal because they were playing around,” Toplikar said. “I just want them to know that these things can be dangerous and could hurt someone.”
That’s a lesson Cole had to learn the hard way.
“I just want kids to know not to shine them on other people,” he said. “I do think the age should be 18 for people to have them now. Because, like, minors don’t really know what damage it can cause.”