Georgia Legislators Want to Force Tattoo Artists to Spread Misleading Information

The new warning would tell customers that tattoos can disqualify them from a military career.


Marcelo Bragion / Pixabay

Tattoo artists in Georgia may have to include an additional warning on their consent forms if state legislators get their way. According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, lawmakers have introduced a bill, H.B. 123, that would make it mandatory for tattoo parlors to provide written notice that getting certain tattoos could make a person ineligible for military service. The language would read, "Warning: You will likely be disqualified from joining the military if you have a tattoo on your face, neck, forearm, hand, wrist, or lower leg."

Rep. Sandra Scott (D–Rex) is the main sponsor, having previously introduced a similar bill that was passed by the House but later tabled by the Senate. It's unclear whether she realizes that the military has updated its tattoo policies to be more lenient in recent years.

The Army no longer limits the size or number of tattoos that soldiers can have on their arms or legs, though it does maintain a prohibition on face, neck, and hand tattoos (with the exception of one ring tattoo per hand). The Air Force similarly prohibits tattoos on the head, neck, and face, but allows for authorized tattoos on the chest, back, arms, and legs (contra the proposed warning) with no size or area limitations. The Navy has the most lenient policy: Sailors are permitted to have multiple tattoos of any size as long as they're below the elbow or knee, including on the wrist and hand. They may also have one neck tattoo, though it can't exceed an inch in length. The Marines have a stricter policy, but even they allow for an unlimited number of tattoos on any area of the body that can be covered by a properly fitted standard physical training uniform.

Cultural attitudes about tattoos in the U.S. have been changing over time. A 2014 Fox News poll found that 20 percent of voters have at least one, while 14 percent have two or more. Not surprisingly, the poll also found that younger Americans are more likely to have a tattoo and view them more favorably than older generations. Even more telling is that 73 percent of voters say they'd hire someone even if he or she had a visible tattoo.

Why, then, do Georgia legislators feel the need to warn people—all people, regardless of their interest in or qualifications for military service—that their ability to sign up is in jeopardy if they get ink?

Of course, regulatory interference is no stranger to the tattoo industry. As Damon Root noted in Reason's June 2016 cover story, "Tattoos vs. the State": "Over the past half-century, tattoo artists have been subjected to all manner of overreaching, ill-fitting, and just plain nonsensical government controls. They've been hassled by clueless health departments, shut down by moralizing zoning boards, and outlawed entirely by busybody city councils and state legislatures."

Rep. Scott did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

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  1. Only white trash, strippers, or drug dealers get tattoos.

    1. Now there’s a Venn diagram I’d like to see!

      1. especially the strippers.

  2. FWIW, Rex is in John Lewis’ district. That area has a lot of problems that legislators might address, tattoos ain’t one of them. Which some cynical people might suggest is why she’s drawing attention to a non-existent problem she’s addressing, to distract attention from the real problems she’s not addressing.

    1. Laws and sausages, Jerry.

    2. Someone needs to nip this stupid fad in the bud. Might as well start with the heavy hand of government regulation, right…?

  3. So be it, then! I’m sure the recruiters can totally meet their quotas by denying tattooed people entry.

    1. So be it, then! I’m sure the recruiters can totally meet their quotas by denying tattooed people entry.

      Meh, Canadian but our policies are similar. And I pretty much agree with them. Tattoos are unseemingly on officers at least.

      But Reason Intern is right, the warning idea’s completely arbitrary, it’s not like they’re demanding loud machines or concerts have signs that says: “CAUTION: LONG TERM HEARING DAMAGE MAY DISQUALIFY YOU FROM MILITARY SERVICE.”

      1. The folks reading your sign have trouble hearing, not seeing.

      2. I’m pretty sure having some ink embedded in your skin does not affect your ability to perform military duties. The U.S. has entered a state of perpetual war, so turning away people with tats is just plain stupid.

    2. KK- I’m pretty sure that’s why the services have already lightened up on these policies. The greater the need for troops, the fewer disqualifications. Since tattoos have no impact on a person’s ability to perform the mission, it makes no sense to turn people away based on them.

  4. Fuck your compelled speech.

  5. Also, fix your fucking alt-text.

  6. Sure a lot of Georgia articles in the last 6 months.

  7. The tattoo regs change all the damned time. I enlisted in the Marines in April 2001. At that time, the only restrictions were that you couldn’t have one below the wrist or above the neckline of your skivvy shirt in uniform. Lots of guys had full sleeves. Then they started cracking down. They put in a limit of four total tattoos. If you were already in and had more, you were grandfathered in but you couldn’t get any more than what you already had. Later, after I got out in ’06, they started having more placement restrictions. Now it sounds like they’ve gone back to what it was in 2001.

  8. So the lesson here is that if the government ever does reinstate the draft, a little voluntary self-mutilation will save your life.

    1. It worked to protect the Slavs from conscription by the Ottomans!

  9. Congratulate ourselves, reasonoids! Our new intern let an autocorrect spelling check survive in the alt-text!

  10. Is Darth Vader doing that tattoo? That’s certainly more constructive than choking people out and blowing up planets. Good for him!

  11. Best words of advice I’ve ever heard, “Don’t ever get a tattoo anywhere a judge can see it.”

  12. The Navy has the most lenient policy: Sailors are permitted to have multiple tattoos of any size as long as they’re below the elbow or knee, including on the wrist and hand. They may also have one neck tattoo, though it can’t exceed an inch in length.

    This is not accurate.

    From the linked Navy Times article:

    Sailors will be allowed to have neck tattoos, sleeves and even markings behind their ears under the new policy, the most lenient of any military service. Only their heads are off limits under the new policy, which the Navy’s top sailor has called a reality check on the permanent art favored by sailors.

    The “below the elbow or knee” language is apparently to roll back the previous policy’s restriction… not to limit tattoos to only those locations.

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