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Virginia Teens: Get Your Tattoos Now! Piercings Too.

So I'm sitting in the Virginia House of Delegates' Committee on Courts and Justice this afternoon and along comes a bill to prohibit tattoo parlors from providing their services to minors. No way, I figure. This is going down, big time.

After all, we are in Virginia, and if you can't exercise your right to act like a jerk/express your individuality/cherish your constitutional rights here in the Old Dominion, where on earth can you? Virginia's House yields to no other state legislature in the land in its zealous protection of the rights of its citizens to carry weapons into college classrooms, carry open containers of alcoholic beverages in your car, and to drive without fear of being pulled over for driving without a seat belt.

Well, strap yourselves in for this one: The committee passed a total ban on tattooing of Virginians under the age of 16; the full House will consider the bill in the coming days. (The web version of the bill linked above shows the bill banning tattoos for anyone under 18; the bill has since been amended to lower the age to 16.)

How in the world did Delegate Dwight Jones, a Democrat from Richmond, manage to win unanimous support in the committee? Easy: He turned tattooing into a gang issue.

All Jones had to do was mention an incident in which some kid got a tattoo of a swastika engraved on his head and then note that gangs use tattoos as a way to ensnare kids and --poof--the committee was all his.

The bill also would ban body piercing for anyone under 16 unless a parent gave consent to the procedure.

The bill was the inspiration of a group of mothers from Charles City County, who came to Jones with an academic study showing that nearly a quarter of high school students have tattoos.

"It's an entry to all kinds of risky behavior," said Angela Yancey, one of the moms who have led this effort. "Binge drinking, gang membership."

Will Virginia really ban tattooing of kids? Stay tuned. Thus far, there's been hardly any opposition. As Delegate Jones says, "The tattoo parlors don't have lobbyists."

Not yet, anyway.

By Marc Fisher |  February 6, 2006; 6:02 PM ET
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As a tattooed and pierced professional (aka. mainstream) 20-something, I can appreciate the sentiment behind the moms group. I also think that minors should not be tattooed or pierced without their parents' permission- at the very least. Both of these actions are minor surgery, leave permanent marks and should not be done on a whim. Many lack the type of decision-making thought, but we can only prohibit minors. However, tattooing and piercing are not something that should be thought of an inherently evil or deviant. It is very mainstream now. Those of us who have done it responsibily put a lot of thought into the placement, design, future implications, etc. of the tattoo or piercing. Many people have hidden tattoos or piercings. Yes, gangs do it, prisoners do it and other people who you would rather not have as a part of the social fabric have tattoos with meanings. However these people proceed with this behavior at shady shops. Clean, well-run and legit shops will not tattoo or pierce minors without parental permission. Legislators are better off passing laws that crack down on the shops that derive their business from minors, drunks incapable of making decisions, etc. The ban is a nice idea, but goes about the problem of gang tattoos in the wrong way.

Posted by: C | February 6, 2006 10:29 PM

Could not disagree with you more. If youth can have tattoos then obviously you should support the death penalty for juveniles who committ heinous crimes.
I really just wanted to tell you your stance against the immigration legislation is ignorant, but after reading your other articles I see it is just a veiled attempt to make news.

Posted by: Trey | February 7, 2006 8:52 AM

I'm not following you. Could you explain a little more how youths having tattoos means support of the death penalty for juveniles?

Posted by: Rob | February 7, 2006 10:17 AM

As if gang tatoos are done in parlors. I'd wager most are done in basements, garages and detention facilities. Dumb.

Posted by: Mark | February 7, 2006 10:55 AM

Absolutely hysterical. Everytime I think my native Massachusettes legislature does dumb things, along comes the VA Delegates. Tattoo as gateway to a danger-riddled life? Does this mean that Marines shouldn't get inked?

Posted by: Soulie | February 7, 2006 12:13 PM

Oh, as my North Dakotan college roommate would have said, for DUMB. If a quarter of high schoolers have tattoos, couldn't you also argue that tattoos are totally mainstream and boring?

Posted by: h3f | February 7, 2006 1:29 PM

Isn't this a waste of time? Most parlors require parental consent and ID for young kids. It would be nice if all industries made efforts like the tattoo/piercing industries does at self-policing.

Posted by: Danielle | February 7, 2006 2:24 PM

I only mean by the standard of Marc Fisher, a juvenile is capable of making a decision to permanently decorate their body. I infer from this that youth are capable of making decisions which permanently affect their circumstances. Hence, I would state by this standard a youth who commits a capitol offense knowingly accepts the outcome of their punishment. In this case the death penalty.
If youth are able to decide that tattoos are to their benefit, it follows that youth should be punished for crimes as adults.
I feel my reasoning might not come acroos totally, but to be truthful it is just a blog and I am unwilling to complete a research paper to explain my position fully.

Posted by: Trey | February 7, 2006 3:43 PM

Wow, tattoos as an entry to binge drinking and gang membership?! That's up there among the stupidest things I've ever heard. I say this because I, too, am tattooed and pierced (nowhere very visible), and I am neither a binge-drinker nor a gang member, but a college senior on the Dean's List. Many of my friends have tattoos and piercings and are totally responsible members of society. Jeez, lighten up, Virginia.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 7, 2006 5:17 PM

What is a minor? Sorry but even in the land of free, children don’t have much say so over their lives, and with good reason. Is it smart to expend energy to enforce this? Probably not, but please don’t sit here and tell me that children somehow have some constitutional right to a tat. The only over-reaction I see here Fish & Co.

Posted by: Capitalist Bob | February 7, 2006 5:21 PM

I strenuously object to the tatooing of companion animals.

Posted by: CT | February 7, 2006 6:10 PM

I live in Va. and I was very dissappointed to know I couldn't get inked for my 17th b-day.. that SUCKED. As for piercing; same thing.. Although I already have gauged ears out to size zero and a small hoop on top of my left gauge, this whole law is just too stupid for me to comprehend.. Va does a LOT of stupid crap, believe me. Now, binge drinking and tattoos being linked?? How can you put those two together and say that if you get a tattoo you're going to be an alcoholic and smoke, drink, party, and do drugs and get in with the wrong crowd? I have been labled as "goth" and a lot of rediculous names, but I just don't give a crap.. Yeah, once I get my tatt. I'm going to go out in my garage, crack open a beer, start drinking my way into nothing, and become what everyone expects from someone that has a tattoo.. pfft, like THAT's going to happen. Who cares if I get a tattoo or how big my ears are? I'm studying to be a computer technician and I'm about ready to get my A+ degree.. Once I get a tattoo, my life's going to be ruined.. Right, Va?

Posted by: Wes | May 3, 2006 12:31 PM

this is one of the dumbest things ive ever heard if you have to parental permission to get a tattoo wouldn't you think there parents asked them what there tattoo that they were gettin meant i mean there saying kids are marking there bodies with gang related tattoos say your kid wants to get a tattoo that says B4L i mean aren't you gonna ask what it means and when you find out what it does mean ( Bloods for Life) are you still gonna let him/her get it.

Tattoos have nothing to do with gang related crap and honestly what gangster would be dumb enough to mark him self with his gang symbol announcing to the police to keep an eye on him.

its our right to do what we want so this stupid law should of nver passed and everyone who disagrees with this law should take a stand

Posted by: Jack Mehoff | May 21, 2006 5:11 PM

one more thing Virginia can make a law based on a theme park if you dont know its the kings dominion busch gardens law but they can't make a law where they have to sit down and think for two minutes "is this actually gonna stop gang violence and binge drinking or just gonna get people even more pissed off at Virginia ridiculous laws?"

Posted by: jack mehoff | May 22, 2006 6:35 PM

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