Knives, Laser Pointers No Longer Can Be Sold In Resort; Council Unanimously OKs Emergency Ban

OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Mayor and Council banned in emergency fashion on Monday the sale of “assisted opening knives” and laser pointers.

Last week, Ocean City Police Department Chief Ross Buzzuro and Lt. Mark Pacini requested the council move an amendment of the town code to add the definition and prohibition of “assisted opening knives.”

This change would go along with Maryland State Law that states a person may not sell, barter, display, or offer to sell or barter a switchblade or shooting knife. Ocean City plans to take it one step further by banning “assisted opening knives.”

State law defines a switchblade or shooting knife as “a knife or a penknife having a blade that opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife, commonly called a switchblade knife or a switchblade penknife, or a device that is designed to propel a knife from a metal sheath by means of a high-compression ejector spring, commonly called a shooting knife.”
A person who violates this state law is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 12 months or a fine of not less than $50 and not exceeding $500 or both.

The ordinance before the Mayor and City Council on Monday evening defines an “assisted opening knife” as a knife which uses an “internal mechanism, such as a spring, tension spring or mechanical device to fully open the blade once the user has depressed the flipper or thumb stud attached to the blade.”

The ordinance furthers, “It shall be unlawful for any person to display, possess, sell, barter, offer to sell, distribute, manufacture, give away, transfer or dispose of an assisted opening knife…”

“One of our police officers bought this recently from a store on the Boardwalk,” Councilman Doug Cymek said, holding up an “assisted opening knife.” “It is not made for wildling branches, I can tell you that much. There are three to four stores that are primarily selling these, and if this passes tonight they will be removed quickly.”

The sale of laser pointers was also brought last week to the attention of the Mayor and City Council, which voted to move forward with an amendment of the town code to make it unlawful to possess and sell laser pointers in Ocean City.

Ocean City’s current code defines a laser pointer “as a battery-powered portable handheld device that emits a narrow beam of ultraviolet, visible or infrared light due to stimulated emission.”

The code states, “It is unlawful for any person to focus, or shine a laser pointer directly or indirectly onto another person or animal in any manner, to shine a laser pointer directly or indirectly onto or from a balcony, porch, patio, deck or any other structure where a person or persons may gather or into any window or door, or into any vehicle on land, air or water, which includes but is not limited to cars, bicycles, scooters, buses, trams, planes, helicopters, boats, jet skis, motorcycles, Segways or wheelchairs, in any manner, or to shine a laser pointer onto the beach, boardwalk, public streets, sidewalks, or public waters… it is unlawful to sell a laser pointer to a minor, and unlawful for a minor to possess a laser pointer.”

The amendment would add it is unlawful to sell or otherwise transfer to another a laser pointer. Thus eliminating the language, “It is unlawful to sell a laser pointer without having a sign conspicuously posted at the point of sale or exchange advising potential purchasers of the laws, and it is unlawful to sell a laser pointer without providing the purchaser with written notice, in bold face type, a copy setting forth verbatim of the laws.”

Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out in the past three years the police department has received just under 1,000 calls for service due to the misuse of laser pointers.

“That is a 1,000 times in three years our police officers could be addressing something else,” the mayor said. “There are documented cases of these things being shined in the eyes of our tram drivers, of indivusals, of aircraft, and the recommendation to bring this forward is strictly for public safety reasons.”

Jeff Morris, a laser pointer wholesaler, asked the council to reconsider the ban of selling laser pointers in Ocean City. He reasoned providing a notice has decreased incidents.

“As far as the sales on the Boardwalk, all of the merchants are aware of the law and they explain the law to the people that buy it. It would be a big loss to the merchants who sell them by the thousands a year,” Morris said. “They are being sold all over the country. I have customers from New Jersey to Florida, so it is not going to hurt me per se but it will hurt the merchants.”

Cymek, who chairs the town-chartered Police Commission, reminded Morris the town passed a law several years ago requiring merchants to display the law in their store as well as provide a copy to customers.

“We know for a fact that is not being done … they have had their chance,” he said. “There has been people injured because of them … I have no futher patience for this and it needs to come to an end.”

Councilman Brent Ashley asserted to prohibit the sale of laser pointers has become a quality of life issue.

“As Mr. Morris said, they are sold all over the country but I am proud to say they are not going to be sold here in Ocean City,” Ashley said.

The council voted unanimoulsy to approve the passage of both ordinances as well as to request the mayor to approve the ordinances be passed an an emergency. Meehan agreed to pass both items as emergency ordinances to become effective immedialty.