I was talking to a certain person yesterday and the subject of child pornography came up — you’d be amazed what you would end up talking about, in a conversation with me — and she was shocked to find out that merely possessing and looking at it was illegal. A sin, she said, a terribly wrong thing, but a crime? Surely making it was a crime, but just looking at it?

Yes, I said, a very serious crime. You could serve decades in prison. She looked confused. “Children are sexually abused,” I explained, “little kids, for the specific purpose of making these images to sell. That’s why it’s illegal to own them.” But she kept shaking her head, uncomprehending.

The woman is an immigrant to this country, from China. I don’t know how long she’s been here, but long enough to convert to Christianity and long enough that her English is as good as mine. You might think that perhaps that’s why she doesn’t know.

But months ago I had the same conversation with another person, a woman in her eighties who’s very intelligent, educated, and has lived in the US her whole life except when she’s gone on world travels. And she too did not know that the mere possession of child pornography was a serious crime. You can serve five to twenty years in federal prison. Per image.

I wrote about this three years ago, about how you can get more time for LOOKING at images of child molestation than you can for COMMITTING molestation. But in light of what happened yesterday I thought I’d bring it up again.