Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., today unveiled the Stop the Sale of Murderabilia to Protect the Dignity of Crime Victims Act of 2010. It seeks to hamstring the crime-collectibles trade by using interstate commerce laws to prevent prisoners from mailing any object they put up for sale.
The bill also would allow victims to try to block the sale in court, or to sue for damages and attorney's fees.
"It is reprehensible that criminals who are supposed to be paying their debt to society are exploiting their notoriety and profiting from their deplorable crimes," Cornyn said. "Even more tragic is the effect this practice has on crime victims and their families, many of whom have already suffered immeasurably. These 'murderabilia' sales slow the healing process and reopen old wounds, and I intend to push this legislation until this despicable industry becomes extinct."
Cornyn introduced a previous version of the legislation in 2007. Drafted with assistance from Houston crime-victim advocate Andy Kahan, it was initially picked up in the House by Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., but quickly stalled.
Cornyn and Kahan are hoping that bipartisan sponsorship will help this latest version pass.
"We have a better chance now that we have interest on both sides," Kahan told AOL News. "I would hope that everybody would agree that you shouldn't be able to rob, rape and murder and make a buck off of it."
Not everyone, however, agrees with the pending legislation, most notably murderabilia dealers like Eric Gein, owner of Los Angeles-based Serial Killers Ink.
"This industry may be controversial, and some may view it as downright tasteless, and that is their right," Gein told AOL News. "But that does not constitute making it illegal and in the process violating our rights [as] American citizens. This bill is an anti-civil liberties bill, plain and simple."
Gein, who says the inmates he deals with do not profit from his website, argues that many crime-related items have historical value.
"[They are] a factual part of history," Gein said. "The selling of these artifacts is the same as selling items tied to World War II, visiting establishments such as the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast or paying to see the Ted Bundy Volkswagen at the Washington, D.C., crime museum."
Gein vows to fight the bill and has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union for assistance. There is no word yet on whether the organization will get involved.
Meanwhile, Kahan said he will not stop until he obliterates the "insidious and despicable" murderabilia industry.
"It's kind of like a Tom and Jerry cartoon game -- we'll be chasing each other from here to eternity," he said. "But I'm firmly of the belief that if we can at least get the law on the books, it will give us some standing and at least add constitutional muster."