Elizabeth Smart lobbies D.C. senators

Sex offender registry: The measure has already passed in the House

Salt Lake City Tribune/March 9, 2006
By Robert Gehrke

Washington -- Elizabeth Smart, whose kidnapping in 2002 drew national attention, encouraged senators to approve a national sex offender registry bill that was passed by the House on Wednesday.

"I don't want to see others go through what I had to go through,” said Smart.

The legislation makes it a crime for sex offenders not to register with their state and requires states to share information when an offender moves to a new state.

It passed the House on a voice vote and has broad support, but has been delayed because Democratic members insist that it include hate crimes legislation opposed by Republican leaders.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates there are about 550,000 sex offenders in the United States, and about 150,000 have failed to register.

“I think this is a great bill and it needs to be passed,” Smart said. “I think it will affect a lot of people for good and can make our country a safer place.”

Smart was abducted from her bedroom June 5, 2002, launching a sweeping search and drawing attention from around the world. She was missing for nine months, but was found with her alleged kidnappers on March 12, 2003.

The man prosecutors say kidnapped Smart, Brian David Mitchell, did not have a prior record as a sex offender, and would not have been affected by the legislation.

Smart, now 18, said she is doing “great.” She graduated from high school in January and will be starting college at Brigham Young University in the fall.

Her father, Ed Smart, said having a victim advocating for the bill “puts a face on the subject and the impact is stronger.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has sponsored the Senate version of the bill, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last October.

Under the bill:

  • Sex offenders would have to register in person instead of by mail;
  • States would get money to outfit sex offenders with tracking devices;
  • Funds would be provided to create a national database of sex offenders.

Additionally, the legislation would provide enhanced penalties in certain sex crimes, expand the scope of the federal DNA index, add to gang crime penalties, and incorporate child porn measures backed by Hatch.

"There is no greater evil than stealing the innocence of a child,” said Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah.

“We must take a stand, and today we have,” said Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, saying the legislation “will protect children from perpetrators of brutal crimes against the most defenseless members of our society.”

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