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Area tattoo shops weigh in on new state law

Anita Burbeck, tattoo artist and owner of Golden Needle Tattoo in Moorhead, adds color to a tattoo on Tuesday. (Chris Franz / The Forum)

FARGO - Anita Burbeck says when government redraws rules on how body art can be done, it usually comes as a surprise to the tattoo industry.

And a law taking effect Thursday that bars Minnesota shops from giving anyone under 18 a tattoo is no exception, said the operator of Golden Needle Tattoo in Moorhead.

The rule itself doesn't necessarily rub Burbeck the wrong way.

She said she doesn't have many underage clients, so the effects may be small aside from the potential loss of repeat business that can come from giving someone their first tattoo.

"What disturbs me the most is, the state of Minnesota is making laws without the knowledge and the input of the people these laws are going to affect." Burbeck spent part of this week researching what the new rules entail.

As of Tuesday, she still wasn't sure she had the entire picture.

What is clear, she said, is shops will be prohibited from doing tattoos and certain types of body piercings on people under 18, a change from the current rule that allows piercings and tattoos for people under 18 with permission from a parent or guardian.

Burbeck said she's been told the new law will still allow things like ear piercings for minors accompanied by a parent or guardian.

While she doesn't allow piercings at her shop, Burbeck expects the change will hurt other Minnesota businesses by driving customers to states like North Dakota that provide minors with more options.

"This will have very profound effects, because young people like piercing," she said.

When it comes to tattoos, Burbeck said her shop already limits the age to 16 and older, whether or not a parent supports the idea.

"Younger than 16, what child has the capacity at that age to make a lifetime decision?" she asked.

Starting Thursday, the Dead Rockstar tattoo shop in Fargo will adopt a similar policy, even though Cass County allows minors as young as 13 to get piercings and tattoos with parental permission, said Jenny Gunderson, one of the owners of Dead Rockstar.

"We felt under 16, you're still a little bit young to be having any of that stuff done. You're body isn't done growing yet," Gunderson said.

A Dead Rockstar shop Gunderson owns in Bismarck has had a 16-and-older requirement for tattoos and piercings for some time based on rules in Burleigh County.

Gunderson said Minnesota's rule change, which she learned of Tuesday, may or may not mean more business for North Dakota shops.

"We don't tattoo a lot of minors the way it is," Gunderson said.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.