The shooting deaths of two men listed on Maine’s online sex offender registry have rekindled debate over the value of such information and the pitfalls that can accompany it, says the Portland Press-Herald. The men had little in common, except that their names appeared on the Internet database of sex offenders. That was apparently enough to make them the targets of a gunman Easter Sunday morning. Stephen Marshall, 20, of Nova Scotia, researched 34 sex offenders listed on Maine’s registry before shooting the two men at their homes and killing himself that night as police attempted to apprehend him on a bus in Boston. Federal law mandates that states publish information about sex offenders to help families protect children from people who could pose a risk. Critics say such mandates are symbolic laws that waste resources and make offenders a target for harassment when they are trying to reintegrate into society. “It’s almost an invitation to vigilantism,” said John LaFond, a retired professor from the University of Missouri Law School.
Sunday’s deaths were on the minds of sex offenders at a treatment session, said Scott Efland, a social worker who works with sex offenders. “One man said, ‘It’s target practice and we’re the target,’ ” Efland said. “They’re very afraid.” Proponents of Megan’s Law, the law that requires all states to set up a sex-offender notification system, say the registries are not responsible for vigilante attacks. “We are vehemently opposed to these types of crimes; unfortunately, when these things happen, it gives fuel to people who are already against the release of this information,” said Laura Ahearn of Parents For Megan’s Law, a New York-based watchdog group.