Lott on laser pointers

Lott has an opinion piece on page 15 of today’s Australian. Lott writes:

Americans may feel safe when an academic addresses a conference using a laser pointer. In the hands of an Australian, however, there is understandable fear that these devices could do untold harm. An Australian academic with a laser pointer would cause real panic.

Well, I’m an Australian academic and I use a laser pointer in my lectures and guess what? There was no panic. They don’t even cower in their seats in terror. Weird.

As far as I can tell, the fact that the sale of high-powered laser pointers is not allowed has gone into Lott’s head, bounced around inside for a while and mutated into a “fact” that people are terrified of the low power ones used in lectures.

Lott then decides that Victoria’s ban on swords also applies to steak knives:

A licensing process will be set up so that a select few will be granted an exemption and pay a $135 fee, but they will have to lock their weapons in sturdy safes and put in burglar alarms. If properly enforced, the law could produce other benefits, such as ensuring that dishes are promptly washed after dinner so that any offending steak knives can be placed back in their safe. On the downside, the knives would still be available during dinner when many family arguments might get out of hand.

I don’t agree with Victoria’s new restrictions on swords. There is hardly any problem with sword violence and there are far more productive uses of police manpower. So I’m actually on the same side as Lott on the sword ban. But he gets an op-ed to argue against it and instead of of making sensible arguments he writes silly stuff about steak knives and laser pointers.

Now I’m used to seeing articles in foreign newspapers that get fundamental things wrong about life here. My favourite example is this article in the Dallas Morning News on “How to speak Australian”. Follow the advice in the article and you’ll have any Aussie you speak to rolling around in laughter. But Lott’s article appears in the Australian. You’d think that if the editors lived here and read the article they would have noticed that something was wrong

Lott also repeats bogus claims he made earlier about crime increases in Australia following the 1996 gun laws. I dealt with these here.


  1. #1 c8to
    March 24, 2004

    its a silly piece certainly, but im pretty sure lott was being sarcastic about the laser pointers.

  2. #2 Trevor Cook
    March 25, 2004

    The whole piece reads like something someone (like ironic times or the onion) would write to spoof the position he holds – whatever that is. His proposition seems to be that the more dangerous things become the safer we all will be – if its counter-intuitive it must be right, or at least clever I suppose.

  3. #3 Kevin Baker
    March 26, 2004

    Surely you’ve not lost the ability to see sarcastic irony!

  4. #4 Tim Lambert
    March 26, 2004

    Kevin, I did notice the attempt at sarcasm, but his premise is wrong — laser pointers and steak knives have not been banned.

  5. #5 Jane Finch
    March 26, 2004

    Not surprised…it’s the typical illogical argument used by the NRA crowd in its “No Surrender!” attitude to any legal measures that regulate firearms.

  6. #6 :
    April 17, 2004

    It appears that all laser pointers all laser points above a very low power level (1mW) are indeed banned in parts of Australia (link). That appears to be a very low power level compared to other countries.