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Remarks on Signing Megan's Law and an Exchange With Reporters

May 17, 1996

Good morning. I want to welcome Senator Grams and Congressman Zimmer, Congresswoman Lofgren, Bonnie Campbell from the Justice Department.

This has been a week in which our country is moving to combat crime and violence. A couple of days ago we awarded over 9,000 new police officers to some 2,500 communities. 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.

But 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. Richard and Maureen Kanka, Patty Wetterling, Marc Klaas, and John Walsh have suffered more than any parent should ever have to suffer. 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. 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. Because of you, steps have already been taken to help families protect their children. Study after study has shown us that sex offenders commit crime after crime. So 2 years ago we gave every State the power to notify communities about child sex offenders and violent sex offenders who 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.

Today we are taking the next step. From now on, every State in the country will be required by law to tell a community when a dangerous sexual predator enters its midst. We respect people's rights, but today America proclaims there is no greater right than a parent's right to raise a child in safety and love. Today America warns: If you dare to prey on our children, the law will follow you wherever you go, State to State, town to town. Today America circles the wagon around our children. 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.

To understand what this law really means, never forget its name, the name of a 7-yearold girl taken wrongly in the beginning of her life. The law that bears a name of one child is now for every child, for every parent and every family. It is for Polly and Jacob and Adam, and, above all, for Megan.

I thank the Congress for passing it. I thank those who led the fight. And I thank these families more than anything else. God bless you all.

[At this point, the President signed the legislation.]

Thank you.

Q. Mr. President, you said here that studies have shown sex offenders commit crime after crime. But apparently the courts, especially on the State level, don't seem to recognize that fact. What makes you think that all the way up to the Supreme Court they are going to change that opinion?

The President. First of all, I hope that this law will be upheld if it is challenged. I believe it will be. And before we went forward with this, in consultation with the Congress, including the leaders of Congress who are here now, 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.

And 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.

Death of Admiral Jeremy M. Boorda

Q. Have you talked to Mrs. Boorda?

The President. Excuse me?

Q. Have you talked with Mrs. Boorda?

The President. I have not because yesterday—I intend to call her as soon as this is over. But yesterday I asked the Secretary of Defense to determine the family's wishes, and they wanted a day alone, and I understood that. But I intend to speak with her this morning as soon as this is over.

Pennsylvania Avenue

Q. Mr. President, Pennsylvania Avenue has been closed for a year now, and it hasn't exactly become the urban parklike setting that was planned when it was closed. And it is frequently, in fact, cut off from tourist and pedestrian use. What would you like to see?

The President. Well, I would like—if it is the judgment of the Secret Service and the other security people that we should keep it closed, I would like to see it fixed as it was intended in that plan that was developed about 30 years or so ago and turned into a genuine park so it can be made available to all the many people who live in and around Washington and all those who come here to visit. It's quite a nice space, and with a little investment, it could be made, I think, quite attractive. Right now the skateboarders and the rollerbladers seem to like it, but I'd like to see it made more helpful to more people.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:50 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Polly Klaas, Jacob Wetterling, Adam Walsh, and Megan Kanka, child crime victims; and Bettie Boorda, widow of Adm. Jeremy M. Boorda. H.R. 2137, approved May 17, was assigned Public Law No. 104-145.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Signing Megan's Law and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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