ANNAPOLIS – A 13-year-old boy who had a bulldog tattooed on his chest has instigated several bills before the Maryland General Assembly to ban tattooing of minors.
And while the boy was not at a hearing Thursday on the matter, he was among the few concerned to skip it. The event packed a large committee room in the James Senate building.
“I think they need to be at least 16,” Ed “Mouse” Massimiano, of Main St. Tattoo Studio in Harford County, told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I don’t think people under 16 know what they want for the rest of their lives.”
Massimiano, a tattoo artist for 21 years, said customers should be at least 16. If they are younger than 18, he said, they should have their parent’s consent.
Massimiano said he became involved in the issue after reading an article about Sally Dietrich, of Dundalk, and her 13- year-old son Michael, who was tattooed without her consent by an unlicensed tattooist at a flea market. Massimiano called Dietrich and offered to help get a lawmaker’s attention.
The resulting legislation includes:
* A measure by Sen. Norman Stone, D-Baltimore County, that would prohibit tattooing a minor without a parent or guardian’s presence and consent. Violators would be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a $5,000 fine.
* A similar bill, by Sen. David Craig, R-Harford, that provides for only a $300 fine.
Stone said the bills will probably be combined and then amended to state that people seeking tattoos must be at least 18 — with no exceptions.
Stone originally thought a minor should require the consent of a parent. But since his bill was drafted, he said, he had received a letter from Marks of the Spark Tattoos in Frederick — whose policy is tougher than the bill.
“They are concerned that the bill would require them to serve minors with a parent’s presence and consent,” Stone said. “Their policy is no minors.”
Craig’s bill stems from a contact by Massimiano.
Meanwhile, Del. Joseph Minnick, D-Baltimore County, will soon introduce a bill to require that tattooists and body piercers be licensed.
“The bill will set up a board to regulate the tattoo and body piercing industry,” Minnick said. “They will have to be licensed and have a certificate showing that they are licensed hanging in their shops.”
Currently, tattooists are required only to obtain a business license for sales tax purposes. Many don’t even do that, critics said.
“If you look in the Baltimore yellow pages,” Massimiano said, “there are at least four, that I know of, that are doing tattoos illegally.”
Minnick’s bill, like Craig’s and Stone’s, would make tattooing or piercing a minor without consent of a parent a misdemeanor and like Stone’s, would carry a $5,000 penalty.
The sole opposing testimony at Thursday’s hearing came from Mick Beasley, a Glen Burnie tattoo parlor owner, who said she opposed the bills because they would make tattooing a crime.
“We already provide safety controls in tattoo studios and we’re already taking care of the problem,” Beasley said. “The boy that got the tattoo did not look 13.”
In response, Sen. Larry Haines, R-Carroll, said tattooing should be banned for all minors.
“It is illegal for them to buy cigarettes, it is illegal for them to buy alcohol and it should be illegal for them to get a tattoo,” Haines said.
Bruce Bereano, Beasley’s attorney, answered that Haines’ opinion “gets into” the parent-child relationship.
“If a parent has no problem with the child getting a tattoo, they should be able to make that decision,” Bereano said.
Dietrich — the mother whose son started it all — agreed with Haines that no one under 18 should be able to get a tattoo. “It is a horrible feeling when your child comes home with a brand on him,” Dietrich said. “I feel that it should be no one under 18. I was very devastated and I hope no other parent has to go through this.” -30-