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PIERCING ISSUE NEEDLES LOCAL MOTHER.

Byline: Jon Matthews Daily News Staff Writer

Loretta Rollins went to her legislator with a prickly problem: How could the law have allowed her daughter - without parental permission - to go off and have her navel pierced?

``Most of the parents don't know their kids are going out and doing this,'' Rollins said. ``A lot of the kids hide it (body piercings).''

Prompted by such worries, Assemblyman George Runner Jr., R-Lancaster, wants to make it a crime to pierce the noses, ears, tongues - or anything else - of Californians younger than 18 who don't have their parents' permission.

Body piercing for rings and other jewelry is popular in the state - out of control, some think.

Runner said he grew concerned when Rollins, a Santa Clarita mom, called him to complain that her 16-year-old daughter had her navel pierced without her parents' permission and that current state law apparently didn't restrict piercing body parts of minors.

``These parents were very surprised to find out that minors could do that. And, after we began to investigate it, we found that it was indeed true,'' Runner said.

He said he and his staff found a law that makes it illegal to tattoo anyone younger than 18. But he said they found nothing that restricts body piercing sought by children.

The lawmaker stressed that his bill, AB 99, would not outlaw body piercing of minors. But it would make it a misdemeanor to ``perform or offer to perform'' body piercing on a person younger than 18 who lacks written consent from a parent or other legal guardian. Minors would need parental consent to get any body parts, including ears, pierced.

A spokesman for Runner said the bill targets commercial operations and is not intended to make it illegal for teen-age friends to pierce each other.

``I believe we need to protect parents' right to know what is happening to their children,'' said Runner, who added that he thinks parents also should have a chance to discuss with their kids what he said are major health concerns related to piercing.

Runner acknowledged that some teen-agers might forge parental notes. ``But at least this bill puts piercing into the discussion of the family,'' the lawmaker said.

Runner said he has received numerous phone calls in support of his idea. Some parents have urged him to make the proposed law even tougher, he said.

He said studies have shown that body piercing brings potential risks from any needles and equipment that are not properly sterilized.

Rollins wants legal guidelines to keep things sterile, and she said she also believes parents should have rights when it comes to body piercing of their children.

But not everybody thinks the bill is such a great idea.

Francisco Lobaco, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, questioned the need for the legislation, although he said his organization had not yet taken a formal position on the bill.

``Do we really want to make it a crime for a (department store) employee to give a piercing for earrings to a 17-year-old?'' he asked.

``I just hope that this bill is not reflective of the pressing social issues that new members of the Legislature are here to address.''

Katrina Rasmussen, a 20-year- old Sacramento music store employee who had her first piercing for jewelry as a teen-ager, also voiced concerns about the bill. She said she fears such a law would drive teen-agers to pierce themselves - as she once did - rather than go to an established piercing studio with properly sterilized equipment.

``These kids are going to pierce no matter what. . . . It's just out- of-control popular,'' Rasmussen said.

Runner acknowledged that many piercing studio operators say that they already have policies requiring parental consent for minors.

``They all say they do get parents' permission, but there must be somebody out there who is doing this to children,'' he said.

Michael McCafferty, owner of the Body Fantasy in Sacramento, said he already has a policy requiring minors to get parental permission for body piercings. He said Runner's bill sounds like a good idea.

``I actually thought it was already the law,'' McCafferty said, adding that he requires the parents of minors to give permission in person.

``I just tell them they have to have their parents. I am not going to jeopardize this business for a $40 piercing,'' added McCafferty, who also advertises that ``all sterile techniques are observed'' at Body Fantasy.

Runner said he views the issue as one of parental rights. He said his own daughter has pierced ears.

``If somebody who is 19 wants to pierce their body, they certainly have a right and the privacy to do that,'' he said. ``But before somebody sticks a needle through the skin of my 12-year-old, I think I have a right to know that.''
COPYRIGHT 1997 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 27, 1997
Words:800
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