WASHINGTON – When the Supreme Court struck down, on free-speech grounds, a law making it a federal crime to sell videos depicting animal cruelty, Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., had more than a passing interest.

He wrote the law.

On Wednesday, Gallegly responded swiftly to the ruling, introducing a “narrowly tailored” bill aimed at passing constitutional muster. The measure would target animal “crush” videos, such as those showing women in high heels stomping on puppies and kittens.

The legislation comes a day after the court, in an 8-1 decision, overturned the conviction of a Virginia man prosecuted under Gallegly’s “Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act” for selling dog-fighting videos. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the 1999 law was too broad and could allow prosecutions for selling hunting videos.

Wednesday, Gallegly and Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., co-chairmen of the Animal Protection Caucus, had written the new law and, within hours, lined up 55 colleagues as co-sponsors.

“Violence is not a First Amendment issue; it is a law-enforcement issue,” Gallegly said in a letter to colleagues. “You are not allowed to cry ‘fire’ in a theater; you are not allowed to possess or distribute child pornography. You shouldn’t be able to create and distribute videos that glorify the senseless killing of defenseless animals.”

But Andrew Tauber, a partner in the Chicago-based law firm of Mayer Brown who filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the free-speech argument against the law, said the new measure would “still face serious constitutional challenge.”


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