Child-safety measures featuring federal aid for “Amber Alerts” were scheduled to be signed today by President George W. Bush in the White House’s Rose Garden. The law will help expand nationwide a voluntary rapid-response network to help find kidnapped children, the Associated Press reports.
The electronic notifications named after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington, Texas, who was kidnapped and murdered in 1996, speed information over radio and television and electronic highway signs in several states. The bill provides federal matching grants to states and communities for equipment and training to create a national network.
At the insistence of congressional Republicans, the new law also strengthens federal criminal penalties against child pornographers, sexual abusers and kidnappers. Democrats argued that restricting judges’ ability to reduce sentences for such crimes against children should have been more thoroughly debated, but the bill passed with broad bipartisan support.
Other provisions ban soliciting anything represented to be child pornography; make it easier to prosecute sex tour operators and people who travel overseas for sex with minors; allow judges to order supervision of released sex offenders for the rest of their lives; make it illegal to take or keep a child outside the United States to avoid custody battles; and require convicted child pornographers to register in the National Sex Offender Registry.