WASHINGTON, May 17 -- President Clinton, in a move he called circling 'the wagons around our children,' signed legislation Friday known as 'Megan's law,' requiring states to inform communities when convicted sex offenders move into their neighborhoods. The legislation was named after 7-year-old Megan Kanka of Hamilton, N.J., who was raped and killed allegedly by a neighbor who was a convicted sex offender. 'Today, America circles the wagon around our children,' Clinton said. 'Megan's law will protect tens of millions of families from the dread of what they do not know. It will give more peace of mind to our parents.' Among those attending the signing ceremony were Megan's family, including her parents, Richard and Maureen Kanka, her sister Jessica, 13, and her brother Jeremy, 10. 'It was very emotional for us. This is a tribute...for our daughter's memory, and it's a memory that we want other parents and children to carry in their hearts and to remember, so that they can protect their children,' Maureen Kanka said. 'What you do, you take a child by the hand and you point the person out to them and you say, 'This man hurts children. If you go near him, he will hurt you.'' Also on hand was John Walsh, host of the television program 'America's Most Wanted,' whose 6-year-old son, Adam, was abducted and killed. Walsh and his wife Reve worked for passage of the Missing Children's Act of 1982 and the Missing Children's Assistance Act of 1984.
'This is not a violation of the rights of anyone at all,' Walsh said. 'This is a sex-offender registry for convicted felons. This is public knowledge. This is letting parents know that the fox is in the henhouse. 'Are we mad and bitter? No. But we're sick of seeing these people (pedophiles) get all the rights and our children and the parents not getting any rights.' 'It will meet the (constitutional) challenge...we will see it to the steps of the United States Supreme Court. 'It's going to make it easier for cops to track these guys. When they violate their probation, when they move from state to state, it's going to be a great tool for law enforcement to track the serial pedophile.' Joining the Kanka and Walsh families were Mark Klaas, whose 12-year- old daughter Polly was kidnapped from her home in Petaluma, Calif., and murdered in 1993, and Patty Wettlering, whose son Jacob was abducted from near his home in St. Joseph, Minn. The search for the youngster continues. 'Today, the valiant presence of five American parents reminds us that this fight against crime is so much more a fight for peace and for safety for our people, and especially for our children,' Clinton said. 'Richard and Maureen Kanka, Patty Wetterling, Marc Klaas and John Walsh have suffered more than any parent should ever have to suffer,' he said. 'They have lived through the greatest pain a parent can know -- a child brutally ripped from a parent's love. 'And somehow they found within themselves the strength to bear a further burden,' Clinton added. 'They took up the parents' concerns for all children's safety and dedicated themselves to answering that concern. Each of you deserves the fullest measure of your country's thanks.' Also attending the ceremony was Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited children. Clinton, who flew to St. Louis after the ceremony and planned to stress the fight against juvenile crime, said the government is 'ahead of schedule and under budget' in its goal to put 100,000 more policemen on American streets. 'A couple of days ago we awarded over 9,000 new police officers to some 2,500 communities,' Clinton said. 'That brings us to 43,000 police officers in 20 months along the road to our goal of 100,000. We're ahead of schedule and under budget.' Numerous studies, said Clinton have shown that 'sex offenders commit crime after crime. So two years ago, we gave every state the power to notify communities about child sex offenders when violent sex offenders move into their neighborhoods. 'We're fighting now to uphold these laws in courts all across the country and we will fight to uphold them all the way to the Supreme Court,' he said. In response to a question, he expressed confidence the high court would uphold Megan's law, noting that the law was written 'in consultation with Congress...we did a great deal of legal research on it. And we felt that we could defend it and we felt that it was right.' Clinton lauded congressional action on the legislation, saying Congress 'has done its job. And now it is our job to get out there and defend this law, and we intend to do it if it's challenged. And in the meanwhile, we intend to enforce it.' After the ceremony, Rep. Dick Zimmer, R-N.J., said: 'Megan's law is Megan Kanka's legacy. The death of Megan Kanka has resulted in saving the lives of other young children.' ------
The Missing Children's Assistance Act of 1984 provides for a toll- free hotline to report a missing child. People also can call the hotline to report if they have seen a missing child. The number is 1-800-THE-LOST.