Finally, Congress has passed a child-pornography law the Supreme Court let stand.

In a 7-2 decision handed down Monday, the court rejected the notion that the mere offer to provide such images, whether or not the images actually were delivered, should be protected speech under the First Amendment.

Not so, the court said. "We hold that offers to provide or requests to obtain child pornography are categorically excluded from the First Amendment," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion.

Opponents of this law imagined abuses that defied logic. A grandmother, for instance, could be arrested for sending an e-mail with the subject line, "Good pics of kids in bed," even though the e-mail actually contained photos of grandchildren in their pajamas. That was the ridiculous argument proposed by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had struck down the law.

As Scalia noted, that type of prosecution, were it for some reason pursued, would be quickly thrown out. By contrast, the case at hand involved a man who unwittingly offered photos of his toddler to an undercover Secret Service agent in a chat room, in exchange for toddler pictures or videos the agent might have. The man then not only posted photos of children engaged in sex, a search warrant executed at his home uncovered 22 such images on his computer. This was no innocent grandmother. They don't often hang out in chat rooms.

The man was convicted both of pandering child sex photos and of possessing them. The pandering provision gives law enforcement officers an important tool, allowing them probable cause to investigate further.

Six years ago, we objected strongly to the court's rejection of a 1996 law against child pornography. In that case, the court rejected the idea that virtual pornography, involving life-like, computer-generated images of children, should be anything other than legal artistic expression. That was a stunning display of naivete about the problem at hand.

One need only read the pages of this newspaper to see how often someone is arrested in Utah for the possession of child pornography. It is a growing international problem that frequently leads to the abuse of real children. Perhaps the court finally understands the enormity of the problem.