ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
We hear that Marines from Camp Pendleton in California are hitting the local tattoo parlors in force today. That's because the Marine Corps commandant announced a policy change last week. Starting Sunday, April 1st, new, very big tattoos below the elbow or the knee are banned. The commandant says it's bad for the image of the corps.
Well, Jerry Layton(ph) is a tattoo artist at Body Temple Studio in Oceanside, California near Camp Pendleton, and Jerry Layton, how's business today?
Mr. JERRY LAYTON (Tattoo Artist): Business is slow right now, but it should be picking up when the Marines get off.
SIEGEL: People coming in to get a last-minute sleeve tattoo, as you call it?
Mr. LAYTON: Oh yes, they're all coming in for that. They're all coming in for their forearm tattoos, their leg tattoos, all their tattoos they have to get before this policy goes through on the 1st.
SIEGEL: Describe the kind of tattoo that as you understand it is going to be banned, and how common it is for Marines.
Mr. LAYTON: Well, it really just - I mean, everybody varies in what they get. I mean, a lot of them do get fallen brother tattoos for some of the Marines that didn't make it back from Iraq.
SIEGEL: So it's a very popular kind of tattoo.
Mr. LAYTON: Yeah, I would say a lot of Marines get their moto tats on their forearms because that lets them represent, you know, their pride in the military.
SIEGEL: And again, it's all still available to them, but just not below the knee...
Mr. LAYTON: Just not on their forearms.
SIEGEL: The bicep or the chest, it's still fair game, yes?
Mr. LAYTON: A lot of them already have tattoos there in those spots, and they like to put the fallen brother tattoos on their forearms.
SIEGEL: Well, how long will the window be open for Marines, as you understand it, to get a tattoo as big as they want before the ban...
Mr. LAYTON: I believe the ban goes through on the 1st, but a lot of them are being told already, since they read the piece of paper, that it's already a done deal, they cannot get tattooed. But a lot of them are still getting tattooed until the 1st.
SIEGEL: So this afternoon and Saturday, Friday and Saturday...
Mr. LAYTON: Yeah, we're going to be booked all weekend long.
SIEGEL: And I gather you're hearing from Marines who are dismayed by this ban, if they're coming in to get a last-minute tattoo.
Mr. LAYTON: Yeah, they're a little upset.
SIEGEL: Well, what do you make of the argument from the Marine Corps commandant that...
Mr. LAYTON: Well, I think it's ridiculous. I think that they fight in a war for our freedom, yet they don't have freedom to get even a tattoo, which is ridiculous because there's more things going on in the world right now than a tattoo.
SIEGEL: But for example, Marines have to wear uniforms.
Mr. LAYTON: Correct.
SIEGEL: And that's - for you and me it might be an expression of freedom to dress as we like from day to day, but a Marine accepts that kind of discipline. So there are differences, right?
Mr. LAYTON: Yeah, but I don't think a tattoo really takes away from their job. They're still going to do their job the way they're supposed to do their job. It's almost like their freedom of speech. They're kind of taking away the tattoos, the freedom to get tattooed and do what you want to do. I mean, I know they're government property, but I just think there's a lot of stuff going on in the world that is more important than a tattoo on a forearm.
SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Layton, thank you very much for talking with us about it.
Mr. LAYTON: Thank you.
SIEGEL: Jerry Layton, who is a tattoo artist at Body Temple Studio in Oceanside, California near Camp Pendleton. The Marine Corps says starting Sunday no more very big tattoos that stretch below the elbow or below the knee.