NEW YORK (WABC) -- For the last year, the family of Gabby Petito has stayed out of the media spotlight. But, they broke their silence to speak exclusively with Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne about a bill they're getting behind in Congress.
The Help Find the Missing Act would take critical information about a missing person entered into the FBI's internal database called the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and would kick it over to the Department of Justice's public database called NamUs, or t he National Missing Persons and Unidentified Persons System, where the public can see who is missing and potentially help find them.
"Everyone deserves to be found and here's a way to have that happen," Joseph Petito, Gabby Petito's father, said.
Under New York State law, law enforcement is already required to put the details of missing people into NamUs, but it's one of only 13 states that has the requirement. Law enforcement in Connecticut and New Jersey are not required.
"There has to be something done on the way we handle missing people," Petito said. "This is just a step in the right direction."
The Help Find the Missing Act was first introduced in 2009, but stalled. It's also called Billy's Law, named after 31-year-old Billy Smolinksi who disappeared from Waterbury in 2004.
Petito said he and his wife, Tara Petito, Gabby's mother, Nicole Schmidt, and her stepfather learned about the legislation in February and immediately began figuring out how to get it passed.
"We've been contacting senators and their teams to make sure everyone is onboard," Petito said.
Petito said the legislation would also provide $2 million in funding to NamUs. It would also expand current law by requiring missing children to be reported to NamUs, create an incentive grants program to help states, local law enforcement, medical examiners, and coroners report missing persons and unidentified persons to NCIC and NamUs.
The law would r equire the DOJ to issue guidelines on how law enforcement, medical examiners and coroners should handle missing persons cases.
The bill has been introduced onto the Senate floor and Petito said he is hopeful legislators will vote on it soon.
He said he can only think of two reasons why a legislator wouldn't approve it: because of politics or because they don't care about their constituents.
"It's not just the left that goes missing or the right that goes missing," he said "It's everyone."
If you have a loved one who is missing, you can add their name to the NamUs database. Visit https://namus.nij.ojp.gov/ and click on "Register."
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