He impresses lawmakers with his arguments and appears smooth and calm in his weekly television show, but John Walsh's rage over the evil done to children was what gripped police chiefs from all over the world Tuesday.
Walsh, the host of America's Most Wanted, drew thunderous applause at the annual convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police when he called for the death penalty for people who kidnap and kill children.
Calling for stronger laws, Walsh told a hushed audience of thousands of law enforcement officers: "Parents are desperate. I have walked in their shoes."
He was referring to the abduction of his 6-year-old son, Adam, in 1981 from a mall near Miami. The boy's severed head was discovered in a canal six weeks later north of Miami. The rest of his body and his killer were never found.
Walsh said parole boards contribute to crimes against children by turning out child killers instead of leaving them in prison for life.
As an example, Walsh told of Arthur Shawcross, who was paroled after 15 years of a life sentence for strangling two Watertown, N.Y., children. The parole board sent Shawcross to live in Rochester, N.Y. He murdered 11 women after moving there and now is serving 250 years in prison.
People who think child killers should not be executed should tell that to "the husbands and fathers of those 11 women and their 14 children," Walsh said.
If someone kidnaps a child, they should know "they will die for the death of that child," Walsh said, drawing cheers, whistles and loud applause from the hundreds of law enforcement officers.
Last year's federal crime bill allows the death penalty for kidnappers who kill children. Walsh testified several weeks ago before the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, pointing out that the law refers only to kidnappings for ransom or reward. The committee is considering an amendment to the law to close the loophole.
Walsh also drew prolonged applause in speaking out for gun control.
"No one needs an AK-47. No one needs a MAC-10 with a 50-round clip. No one needs a cop killer bullet," Walsh said.