NEWTOWN, Conn. With the U.S. Supreme Court slated to hear arguments
Tuesday in the United States v. Stevens, No. 08-769, the National Shooting Sports Foundation encourages the court to support the First Amendment rights of all media to show images of hunting and fishing.
The case centers around a 1999 federal statute used to prosecute a Virginia man on animal cruelty-related charges that because it is so broadly written could similarly be used to prosecute anyone who publishes images of hunting or to prosecute retailers for stocking and selling books, DVDs or art depicting hunting scenes.
"The National Shooting Sports Foundation and its over 4,500 member companies oppose animal cruelty, which is illegal in every state, and stress that hunting scenes are not representative of criminal behavior. Hunting is a legitimate, licensed activity, and responsible hunters respect the animals they pursue and utilize," said Steve Sanetti, president of NSSF. "Such images assist novices with basic hunting and field dressing techniques and provide education about wildlife conservation and safe and ethical hunting."
In the 2004 case, the defendant was initially convicted, but the decision was later overturned by the Third Court of Appeals, which struck down the federal statute as a violation of the First Amendment.
In a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Stevens's position, NSSF said the federal criminal statute "is unconstitutionally overbroad, because it criminalizes free speech protected by the First Amendment. [The statute] was enacted to combat animal cruelty. NSSF abhors animal cruelty and the unethical taking of game. The broad language of the statute, however, criminalizes lawful speech and, in the process, chills lawful commerce in that speech."
Many outdoor media groups such as the Professional Outdoor Media Association, Outdoor Writers Association of America and American Society of Media Photographers, along with sportsmen and conservation groups such as the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International, have also filed friend-of-the-court briefs.
Demonstrating its anti-hunting position, the Humane Society of the United States has filed an amicus brief for the government.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 4,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen's organizations and publishers. For more information, log on to NSSF.org.