Bill may force tattoo-seeking teens to wait

By Beth Silver

Arizona Daily Wildcat

PHOENIX Teenagers looking to get "MOM" tattooed on their arms may soon have to get her permission first.

In fact, she may even have to watch.

A bill making its way through the Legislature would make it illegal for anyone under 18 to get the permanent skin marking without their parent or legal guardian present. If tattoo artists violate the measure, they could face a class 6 felony charge.

But a few Arizona tattoo artists say most reputable parlors have been doing it that way since the 1940s.

"I'm all for it. It will cut down on the nonprofessional work, the scabbers, the people that don't care, that don't have any moral values," said Glen Tackett, owner of the Enchanted Dragon in Tucson.

Tackett said minors who come into his store are required to have their parents along and the identification to prove it.

"Even if the parent says they can have one, we're very restrictive on what they can have. No skulls," he said. And before he starts, he said he counsels the parent and child. Usually it does little to deter them, he said, but the child often listens to him more than to the parent.

He said parents usually come in with their child when they catch them trying to do it themselves.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Janice Kay Brewer, R-Glendale, said she introduced the legislation because a constituent came to her after her 15-year-old daughter got a tattoo without her permission.

"Nationally this issue has become out of control because it's become a real fad thing," Brewer said.

She said she is not worried the bill would push youngsters to do their own tattoos or have a friend do them because the procedure is too painful.

While some have suggested banning tattoos altogether for minors, she said she never thought of it until she started researching the issue.

Sean Barry, manager of The Blue Dragon in Flagstaff, said the law should go the extra step.

"At that age, I don't think they're old enough to know what hair style they are getting, let alone something that is permanent," he said. "I've spent a lot of time covering the work that was done on people when they were 15 years old."

Barry said he is opposed to the bill because it would create a hassle for tattoo artists who work on minors. He said it would be difficult to know whether the person with the minor was his or her real parent. He added that the bill would be inconsistent with existing laws.

"You can't walk into a bar with your parents and say, 'My mom is giving me permission to get a beer even though I'm under 21,'" he said.

"Last week a parent brought in his 10-year-old. Just because you're a parent doesn't mean you always have the best judgement," he added.

Ronald J. Earhart, owner of Skully Bros. in Yuma, said he refuses to tattoo anyone under age 16 and already requires a parent to be present when a 17-year-old is being tattooed.

"I don't think they can make a lifelong decision like that," he said.

The bill passed the Senate Family Services committee 6-0 last week and will go to the full Senate before making its way to the House. Brewer said the bill has a good chance of passing. At the very least, she said, it will spark some interesting debate.

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