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Tattoos popular, yet illegal in state

By Nabeel Jaitapker Published: August 1, 2001
Clovis Wilson wanted a tattoo on his chest.

Erik White, an apprentice piercer at Tigger's Body Art, 4310 N Western, shows his Love Thy Neighbor and Mom tattoos. Staff photo by Nate Billings.
So he did what most people would do - looked for a tattoo parlor.

Tigger's Body Art on Western Avenue seemed a likely place, but Wilson quickly learned Tigger's could pierce his ears and other body parts, but couldn't give him what he truly wanted.

Tattooing, Tigger's told him, is illegal in Oklahoma.

Wilson, a lifelong Oklahoman, was shocked.

"I finally decide to get one, and I find out that I have to go out of state," he said. "That's just ridiculous."

Oklahoma is one of three states - North Carolina and Massachusetts are the others - where tattooing is illegal.

It's been that way since 1963, and seems likely to remain that way despite protests from citizens and bills from legislators.

Erik White displays his Route 66 tattoo. Staff photo by Nate Billings.
The most recent bill, filed in 1999 by Sen. Lewis Long, D-Glenpool, and Rep. Opio Toure, D-Oklahoma City, passed the Senate but died in committee. Health hazards posed by non-sterile needles proved to be the bill's downfall.

Wilson disagrees with the decision.

"It's my body," Wilson said. "If I want to get a tattoo, then that's my right."

University of Central Oklahoma junior Matt Johnson said legislators are being too conservative.

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