NEW YORK -- Trading cards depicting serial killers and mass murderers pose grave psychological harm to children, said two state lawmakers who Monday introduced a bill seeking to ban the sale of such collectibles to minors.
The bill, written by state Assemblyman Alan Hevesi and Sen. Christopher Mega, would restrict the sale of cards containing the likenesses of violent killers and gory depictions of their crimes to adults only.
The cards are marketed and packaged like baseball cards, although minus the bubble gum and costlier, and can tempt youngsters in the habit of collecting and trading cards of their favorites sports heroes.
The decision by one of four companies now making the crime cards to begin selling a dozen for a $1 next month, however, is a blatant attempt to appeal to kids and should be outlawed, Hevesi said.
'They're pretty horrible stuff,' said Hevesi of the cards, which depict well-publicized killers such as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, David Berkowitz and Mark Chapman.
A set of 52 'Mass Murderers/Serial Killers,' made by Bloody Vision/Sheltone, of Irvington, N.J., generally sells for between $8 and $10.
Mother Productions, of Orange County, Calif., makes 'Famous Murderers' and 'Assassins,' while 'True Crimes' cards are made by Eclipse Enterprises, of Forestville, Calif.
Rigomor Press, of Studio City, Calif., will begin selling 'Incredible True Life Murderers' next month.
Roger Worsham, owner of Mother Publications, said the cards he makes have a printed warning on the front indicating they are intended only for adults.
'But kids see worse on Saturday morning cartoon shows,' he said.
'Our cards may have a picture or illustration of a criminal but they don't actually depict violence. It's factual information that most kids can find, if not in their school library, then in their public library,' Worsham said.
'We don't glorify one murderer. We just have a box set of facts,' he said.
He added that 10,000 sets of 'Forty Famous Murderers to Fear,' released in 1989, sold out at $10. 'If you can find it now, it sells for $20. It's actually an investment,' he said.
But Hevesi said professional psychologists maintain that exposing children to violent killers and their crimes, and presenting them as worthy of preserving and collecting, raises potentially serious mental health dangers.
The Queens legislator said selling the cards to adults is protected by the Constitution, but there is a long history of outlawing the sale of obscene or pornographic material to children.
Collecting such crime cards could 'desensitize' children 'to the heinous acts these sociopaths have committed against innocent people,' said Hevesi and Mega in a joint statement.
'Where is the compassion for the families of the victims of these murderers and rapists?' the lawmakers said.
'That's a fine line they're walking,' Worsham said of the legislators. 'If they say you can't sell cards that depict convicted felons, then what are you going to do about Pete Rose?'
Arkansas and Maryland are considering similar legislation, and Michigan has adopted a resolution calling on the manufacturers to cease production of the cards and for retailers to refuse to sell them, Hevesi said.