EDITORIAL FOR March 2-4, 2011
I’m CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof. About a week after the January 8 shooting rampage that took place in Tucson, I broadcast an editorial suggesting that America’s gun laws are too lax and that this country ought to have gun regulations more similar to those found in other civilized nations. I got two emails in response to that editorial and both suggested that guns aren’t dangerous. The writers insisted that only people are dangerous because guns can’t shoot themselves. I suppose that you could take the position that inanimate objects are harmless. If you want to look at it that way, I have a question for you: If a gun is harmless, how about a piece of paper? Could a piece of paper be dangerous? Are there any circumstances under which a person should be sent to prison just because he possessed a piece of paper?
Arizona law has an answer to that question and the answer is yes. Under this state’s law, a piece of paper can be so dangerous that a person found in possession of such a paper can get a mandatory ten years behind bars. But it goes beyond that. Get caught with two such pieces of paper and you get twenty years, and you guessed it; get caught with 20 such pieces of paper and you get 200 years in prison. In fact, that’s exactly what a Phoenix high school teacher named Morton Berger got in 2004– a 200 year prison sentence for having twenty pictures of naked juveniles in sexually suggestive poses on his computer. Berger was convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor even though no claim had been made that he’d ever so much as met the juveniles that he supposedly exploited. Arizona has one of the toughest child pornography laws on Planet Earth in that you get a mandatory ten years for each picture you are caught with, even if you got them from a website based in Bulgaria. Those Bulgarian kids need Arizona to protect them!
Now, nobody in his right mind condones abusing children and children are a very emotional subject. When we get emotional about something we often abandon reason and logic, and I think that’s what happened when our legislature passed Title 13-3553. The basic presumption is that if it’s a crime to possess photos of naked juveniles in suggestive poses, the photos won’t be taken. And if the photos won’t be taken then the juveniles won’t be mistreated. That might sound good until you think about it for a minute or two. By the very same logic, if we make it a crime to possess marijuana no marijuana will be grown. Anyone who watches the TV news knows how ridiculous that argument is. Banning possession of something has almost nothing to do with whether or not it will be produced. If there’s a market for pictures of naked juveniles, the pictures will be produced even if they’re produced halfway around the world.
What about the growing fad among teenagers nowadays to take photos of themselves naked and to e-mail them to their friends? Do we want to put thousands of kids in prison for life?
Arizona’s child pornography law is far crazier than the people who violate it. This law has ruined hundreds of lives and cost the people of Arizona millions of dollars. Ironically, because this state is spending about a billion dollars a year on prisons, the state is making huge cuts to education. In the name of protecting children we’re really harming them. But there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. A member of the Arizona House of Representatives, Cecil Ash, would like to reform this state’s sentencing laws including the extreme mandatory sentences for mere possession of pieces of paper. Strangely, Ash represents ultra-conservative Mesa. He is a Republican and a graduate of Brigham Young University–not the sort of person that you’d expect to spearhead a drive to make criminal penalties less severe. But a guy like Ash just might be better able to bring about change than, say, some liberal Democrat from Tucson.
If you agree with me that sending otherwise law abiding citizens to long prison terms for possessing scraps of paper is idiotic, you might want to send Representative Ash an email of support. You can reach him through his web site which is found at www.cecilash.com. That’s C E C I L A S H. com.
I’m CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof and the opinions you’ve just heard are mine and not necessarily anyone else’s. If you’d like a copy of this editorial or you’d like to express your opinions, go to the CAVE web site at www.cavefm.com. That’s CAVEFM. com
Here are some other email addresses for members of the Arizona House of Representatives:
Peggy Judd: firstname.lastname@example.org David Stevens: dstevens@AZleg.gov
Ted Vogt: email@example.com David Gowan: dgowan@AZleg.gov