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Former Common Council candidate wants background check for martial arts instructors

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Buffalo: Former Common Council candidate wants background check for martial arts instructors
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A former candidate for the Buffalo Common Council is calling on lawmakers to close a loophole that allows sex offenders to teach marital arts to children. YNN's Kevin Jolly tells us more about the proposal.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Master Wassim Khechen has been teaching martial arts in his Kenmore School for more than 20 years. He thinks it's a good idea to have background checks for martial arts instructors.

"It's a must. You know, I think right now there's a lot of martial arts schools opening up and I think when you're dealing with children, you have to really make sure the instructor teaching the child is checked to make sure there's no issues with that instructor," said Khechen.

Thursday, former Buffalo Common Council candidate A.J. Verel went to the Erie County Legislature to gain support for a proposal to prohibit convicted sex offenders from owning and teaching in martial arts schools.

"Right now, unlike every other youth sport that exists, martial artists and martial arts schools in New York State basically can operate with impunity," said Verel.

Verel says despite the state's sex offender registry, a martial arts instructor can easily bypass the law. Unlike Master Khechen's school, many studios are run in homes and places unaffected by any laws or regulations.

"There's a loophole, if you will, and they've found a way and what Parents for Meghan's Law calls it grooming grounds for some of these individuals," said Verel.

"Who would have thought that he would have come in to say, 'Hey this is what our sport and our profession is all about. We want to make sure people are looked after and kids aren't abused,' and they're taking the initiative to do that and I thought it was terrific that he did that," said Terrance McCracken, Erie County Legislator.

Despite support from some local lawmakers, Verel is working on getting the bill sponsored so it can be presented to the Assembly in Albany.

Meantime, Master Khechen says he'll support any effort where the ultimate goal is to keep kids safe.

"I'm all for it, I'm all for it," he said.

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