11 August 2010

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Disgusting but Not Illegal” (editorial, Aug. 2): We disagree with your contention that the First Amendment protects animal “crush” videos.

In United States v. Stevens, the Supreme Court last year overturned a 1999 law banning depictions of animal cruelty on the grounds of overbreadth. The justices were legitimately concerned that the law could impede valid speech. But they explicitly reserved judgment on a statute narrowly tailored to crush videos.

These videos, the subject of House legislation and of a bill that we plan to introduce, are beyond “disgusting”—and go beyond conventional conceptions of animal cruelty. They depict truly extreme forms of animal cruelty—often involving young women torturing small animals—and are created for the prurient interest of a small sick segment of society.

While all 50 states and the District of Columbia have animal cruelty laws, the anonymity of the perpetrators in the videos severely frustrates enforcement efforts, so we need to ban the sale of these videos.

We share your opposition to tinkering with the First Amendment. And the Supreme Court’s decision is a reminder of the importance of narrowly tailoring this legislation, but it has not determined that these crush videos constitute protected speech. We believe our new legislation will pass constitutional muster.

Jon Kyl
Jeff Merkley
Richard Burr
Washington, Aug. 5, 2010

The writers are United States senators.