Oklahoma teens avoid law, risk serious consequences with tattoos

Back in 2006, Oklahoma became the last state to legalize tattoo parlors, but teens are still not allowed to get inked. That's not stopping many young people, sometimes finding themselves in dangerous situations simply because they can't wait a few months or years to get tattooed legally. Once taboo, tattoos have moved into the mainstream. And that first ink usually comes at a young age. Teens we spoke with in Edmond tell us tattoos are becoming a common sight in high school hallways, even though it's illegal to get a tattoo in Oklahoma until you're 18. "It's pretty normal these days," said 17-year-old Antonio Moore, a junior. "Because a lot of people have them." Moore was 16 when he got his three tattoos. "I have these ones on my arm," Moore showed us. " This one says 'truly'. And this other one 'blessed,'" Moore also showed us one on his chest which he described as praying hands with daggers through them. Moore and his friend Devonte Martin didn't go to a professional parlor to get inked. Martin said they went to "a friend's house." Moore said, "I mean if you've got good work, then I trust you." But they admit the work isn't always the best. Martin plans to go to a professional to fix one of his tattoos. He showed us the issues. "The cross, I think it could be better," he said. "And the hands need to be shaded more and stuff like that." Tattoo artist and co-owner of 15th Street Tattoo, Chris Beardsley, tells us those fixes and coverups are some of the most challenging work they do. "Anybody worth getting a tattoo from isn't going to be tattooing out of their house," said Beardsley. It's not just about ending up with botched artwork. The biggest risk is to your health. With broken skin, there's the risk of infection and disease like Hepatitis and HIV. But Beardsley can relate to impatient teens. He got his first tattoo in a home at 17-years-old. "Looking back on it, it was one of the scariest moments of my life," he said. 27 other states now allow children under 18 to get inked with parents' permission. "I got the world on my side, because I actually want to travel the world," said 17 year-old Blaik Hammons, an Edmond senior as she showed off her tattoo. She drove with her father to Arkansas to get her tattoo legally from a professional. "I wanted tattoos my whole life," said Hammons. "My dad told me when I was 16 I could get one. And he probably thought I'd forget about, that but I didn't." Hammons said including her parents in the decision helped save her from making a mistake. "I originally wanted to get it on my wrist, but my dad talked me out of it because of jobs," she said. "He said I needed it somewhere I could hide it." All of the teens we spoke with support changing the law in Oklahoma to include minors. But Beardsley isn't fully on board. "I don't know being 16 you're really mature enough or know enough about yourself to make that kind of life-long commitment," Beardsley said. The advice for parents? Keep an open dialogue. Child psychologists recommend having a frank discussion about tattoos , beyond just telling your teen 'No way.' And they suggest starting the conversation even before your child seems interested.