- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2006

President Bush yesterday signed into law a measure aimed at protecting children and improving tracking of sex offenders.

The president was joined by “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh for the signing of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, named for Mr. Walsh’s son, who was 6 when he was abducted and slain 25 years ago.

“By enacting this law we’re sending a clear message across the country: Those who prey on our children will be caught, prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Mr. Bush said during the signing ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Mr. Walsh praised the Congress members who supported the measure, calling the group a “SWAT team for kids.”

The four main provisions of the act are:

• Expanding the National Sex Offender Public Registry by uniting state efforts to track sex offenders.

• Strengthening federal penalties for crimes against children, including mandatory minimum sentencing.

• Making it more difficult for sex predators to contact children over the Internet by funding and training new Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces.

• Creating a child-abuse registry, which also will require background checks on prospective adoptive and foster parents.

At a press conference after the signing, Mr. Walsh was joined by families of other victims of crime, including two survivors — 2002 kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart, 18, of Utah and abuse victim Amie Zyla, 18, of Wisconsin.

Ed Smart, whose daughter made national headlines after surviving nine months of captivity, said it was important for parents to “know where the sex offenders are in your community.”

John Bish, whose 16-year-old daughter Molly was abducted in 2000 and whose remains were found three years later, said he hopes “parents will be more informed” because of this law.

The new law has “got guts,” Mr. Walsh said, and is “a strike back for all the victims in this room.”

Mr. Walsh co-founded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 1984, three years after his son was abducted from a Florida shopping mall.

Rep. Mark Foley, Florida Republican, who helped author the law, said, “It haunted me to this day that someone could do something so dastardly to such a beautiful child,” referring to Adam, whose murder has not been solved.

In an interview, Mr. Walsh said parents should not assume “that it couldn’t happen to you,” and emphasized the importance of talking to one’s children. He said he hopes future legislation will require that “every convicted felon’s DNA be taken,” not just convicted sex offenders.

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