State Rep. Keith Gillespie is sponsoring legislation that would prohibit the branding of anyone under the age of 18.

The bill would amend the Pennsylvania Crimes Code regarding tattooing and body piercing of minors without their parents' consent, meaning ...

Hmm?

Yes, why don't we take a moment and let that sink in.

He did say branding.

As in red hot pokers and seared flesh.

But it's not what you think.

This is the good kind of branding, a new fashion trend in which the victims ... er, customers ... pay someone to burn a design or words into their skin.

Kind of like a tattoo.

Or a healed industrial accident.

And we all know teens. They see their older friends with permanent disfigurements, and immediately they want one, too.

But they're probably not mature enough to consider the downsides -- infections, septic shock and possibly death, according to doctors.

Hence the need for Gillespie's bill ...

Back to reality:

Are these people crazy?

Do we really need a law forbidding someone from scarring a juvenile with a hot iron -- unless they have a permission slip from the parents?

An adult who consents to have his or her own body mutilated is one thing. Some dark, very deep-seated thing, apparently.

But as far as we're concerned, any parent who signs off on branding should be a codefendant in a child abuse case.

Calling it "art" doesn't change that.

We don't know exactly how many people are out there branding one another. But if it's common enough to regulate, it's common enough to ban outright.