Adding to his election-year defense of his anti-crime record, President Clinton signed legislation Friday that requires telling neighbors when sex offenders move in.
The measure is called "Megan's law," named for a slain New Jersey youngster. Surrounded by families who have lost children to violence, Clinton said, "The law named for one child is now for every child."He said the new law will "tell a community when a dangerous sexual predator enters its midst. There is no greater right than the right to raise children in peace and safety."
The bill was passed by the House earlier this month 418-0.
The measure strengthens requirements in the 1994 anti-crime bill by requiring states not only to notify local law enforcement officials when a convicted sex offender moved into a neighborhood but also to make that information available to the community.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Dick Zimmer, R-N.J., following the 1994 rape and murder of Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl.
A convicted sex offender who lived across the street from her - whose record was unknown to ther Kanka family - was charged with the crime.
"This gives parents the information every parent has the right to know, which is whether there is somebody who can hurt their children living in their neighborhood," Zimmer said Thursday.
"It's a common-sense workable way to reduce the incidence of crime," he said. "It is Megan Kanka's legacy, and is a real legacy for her parents . . . who experienced the worst thing that can happen to any parents."
But the initial version of the law is under challenge in a U.S. District courtroom in New Jersey where a judge has barred community notification. The plaintiffs, 2,000 released sex offenders, contend notification represents additional punishment in violation of the Constitution.