CHILDREN'S SAFETY AND VIOLENT CRIME REDUCTION ACT OF 2006 -- (Senate - July 20, 2006)
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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I rise to speak in strong support of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. This bill will strengthen our power to keep America's children safe from sexual predators and creates the National Sex Offender Registry, which will keep track of all sex offender information nationwide. It will also create the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Web site, so that every American will have the ability to search for information on potential sexual predators in their own community.
I have had a personal interest in children's welfare and child-safety issues for many years, predating my time in the Senate, in fact. Before being elected to this Chamber, I served as judge-executive of Jefferson County, KY, from 1977 to 1984. Jefferson County contains Louisville, my hometown, and the judge-executive position was the county's chief executive.
In 1981, we hosted in Louisville the first-ever national conference on rescuing missing and exploited children. Ernie Allen, who was on my staff at the time and organized the conference, is today the head of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And that conference was keynoted by John Walsh. At the time, Mr. Walsh was not yet the television fixture and hero to millions of parents he is today but a private citizen whose 6-year-old son, Adam, had been tragically kidnapped and murdered earlier that same year.
That event began a decades-long friendship between John and me, centered around this issue. Together, we lobbied Congress--and I remind you, I was not yet a Senator at this time--for legislation that would create a nationwide organization to track missing kids. In 1984, our efforts bore fruit, and President Ronald Reagan signed the bill creating the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as a public-private partnership.
I believe government must do all it can to support groups such as the NCMEC and others and our law enforcement agencies in their efforts to find missing children, return them to their families, and shield them from sexual predators. The work these groups do is vital to protecting families, and I applaud their dedication and compassion.
Passage of this bill will further the mission of comforting parents everywhere and protecting our children. The National Sex Offender Registry will contain up-to-date data on all sex offenders nationwide, and there are harsh penalties for any offender who does not register.
The bill imposes tougher penalties for sex offenses and violent crimes against children. It also allows for civil commitment procedures for any sex offenders who demonstrate while incarcerated that they cannot be trusted to be unleashed on society.
The bill addresses child exploitation over the Internet with stringent Internet safety provisions. It also contains several worthy programs, grants, and studies to address child and community safety.
I would especially like to note that the bill strengthens the pornography recordkeeping and labeling requirements passed by Congress in 1988 to protect children from exploitation by pornographers. These provisions were originally part of S. 2140, the Protecting Children from Sexual Exploitation Act of 2005, sponsored by my good friend from Utah, Senator Hatch.
I was pleased to join him as a cosponsor of that bill and am doubly pleased now to see these provisions included in this bill, which I feel confident in saying will soon reach the President's desk and receive his signature.
Finally, the portion of this legislation that parents may find the most comforting is the creation of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Web site. Parents will now have the power to search for sex offenders in their own community. The good that can come from this power to arm parents with the right information cannot be measured.
I ask my colleagues to join me in commending John Walsh for his commitment to this important issue. His drive to see that the tragedy that befell his own family does not fall on another has not diminished in the 25 years I have known him. I am glad that we can honor John by naming this important legislation after his beloved son.
Those who would prey on the weakest among us--our children deserve to feel the full weight of the law brought down on them. It is hard to imagine a crime that does more to destroy families or dreams of a bright future. This legislation will ensure that kids, parents, and law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to fight child predators and sexual criminals. For that reason, I am proud to support its passage.