Sorry, Arkansas Senate, You Can’t Just Tell Someone They Can’t Have a Tattoo


Recently, the Arkansas Senate passed a bill to ban tattoos, piercings, and other types of body modifications that are “non-traditional”. The nanny—I mean legislator—responsible for such a bill is Republican State Senator Missy Irvin, and the bill passed with an overwhelming majority of 26-4. That’s 26 votes telling adults what they can and cannot do with their bodies.

Senator Irvin and other supporters of the bill “explained” that body modifications such as tongue splitting and dermal piercings are dangerous to our society and people shouldn’t have the right to get them. This doesn’t just affect the individual that wants “non-traditional” tattoos or piercings, it also affects small businesses like tattoo parlors. Given that Irvin is a Republican, I’m surprised to see that she aims to restrict small businesses, especially a business that is already regulated by the Board of Health. I’m not so surprised, however, that she wants to push her morality on individuals.

Although this bill is frightening and indicative of the nanny-state mentality that runs through both Republicans and Democrats, the ban is also blatantly unconstitutional. Back in 2010, Hermosa Beach, California tried banning tattoo parlors, but a federal appeals 9th Circuit Court found that it was a violation of the First Amendment. The three-judge panel concluded that tattoos, piercings, and body modifications are a form of constitutionally-protected free speech.

I understand that people, like Senator Irvin, might not like certain forms of body modification, and she probably wishes that people wouldn’t get them. But what she and the supporters of such a bill need to realize is that people should be free to express themselves as they want to, regardless of whether or not we “like” it. Individuals who want to get tattoos, piercings, or other body modifications should be able to go to a certified tattoo parlor without having the government tell them that they can’t.

Look, Arkansas Senate, I get it. You find dermals and tattoos weird, but you simply can’t ban something because you find it weird—especially if that weird thing is an individual’s choice and truly doesn’t affect you. Thankfully, this bill died in the Arkansas House, but it’s sad to see that “small government” folk are still trying to push their morality on everyone.