KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A new bill in the Tennessee Legislature aims to crack down on illegal tattoos for minors.
Legally, minors are not allowed to get tattoos in Tennessee. However, one lawmaker says children as young as nine are turning up with them and many of the kids are getting inked in unsanitary locations.
James See remembered getting his first few tattoos in someone's house. He was with friends and all of them were too young to legally get tattoos.
"I was 15 years old when I got my first tattoo, done at home, covered up now," said See. "Some other people tattooed by the same guy ended up catching a few things. Luckily I didn't end up as one of those people. I got lucky and got clean."
See is a tattoo artist today and he understands better than ever how dangerous what he did could have been.
Now, a Tennessee state representative wants tighten up tattoo laws with the hope of protecting underage kids.
The proposal is similar to state child abuse laws, which means if someone sees a child with a tattoo they would be required to report it to law enforcement or an entity like the health department.
Among other things, Memphis Democratic Rep. Antonio Parkinson's intention is to curb gang activity or the spread of diseases.
"We don't know if they're changing needles," said Parkinson. "We don't know if diseases are being spread out of these places. They become hangouts for derelict children."
But at Body Graffix Custom Tattoos, they say this kind of bill is not the solution. They say what needs to be regulated is the sale of tattoo equipment, which anyone can buy inexpensively in stores or on the Internet.
"You have to be a licensed tattoo artist to purchase tattoo equipment, and that's the way it should be," said Patrick Cameron, of Body Graffix. "But anyone with a credit card can go online [and buy it]."
James See believes reporting a child with a tattoo won't help authorities get to the bottom of the crime because kids won't say when or how they got the tattoo.
"My response would have been pretty much none of your business," he said.
Rep. Parkinson's bill goes to committee next week. The bill is HB2198.