The killing of two registered sex offenders in Bellingham, Wa., has renewed the debate over the 1990 state law requiring sex offenders to register their addresses, the Los Angeles Times reports. The victims’ address had long been posted on the city’s website. Police say the killer, still at large, had knocked on their door claiming to be an FBI agent warning of an Internet hit list. On Wednesday, the local newspaper received a letter from someone claiming responsibility and threatening to kill all local sex offenders designated as Level III, considered the most likely to commit similar crimes again.
Washington was the first state to pass such a law, which is intended to help the public keep track of dangerous sexual predators. In 1994, Congress mandated that states create registers of sex offenders. Now all 50 states have their own version of Washington’s law. Bellingham Police Chief Randall Carroll told the Seattle Times that “if sex offenders were targeted and attacked because of their offense, the Legislature could decide they could repeal our sex-offender notification law.” Retired law professor John Q. La Fond agreed. La Fond argued on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union against the state’s notification law. He said public notification virtually “invites society to take the law into their own hands.”