Those of you who have been reading BME for a long time probably remember our “No Piercing Guns” t-shirt published about five years ago, which we discontinued after lawsuits were threatened and launched against us and others with similar warnings. The gun manufacturers’ objection was with the list of reasons printed on the back, centered around the sterility issues as well as some of the design flaws that made the guns unsuitable for body piercing in general.
This shirt addressed the core problems with classic-style piercing guns (essentially a spring-loaded device that propelled a piercing stud through flesh and was then reused on every client with minimal contamination control; rarely any more than an alcohol wipe), starting with the sterility issue. Because the guns were designed to be reused and their plastic bodies precluded the ability to autoclave them, bloodborne pathogens could easily be transmitted between clients — there are numerous known and well-documented cases of hepatitis being spread by these guns.
The shirt also addressed the issue that the stud was relatively dull (far duller than a piercing needle) and was basically just rammed through the tissue with force. Now, on earlobes you can probably get away with this and not affect healing dramatically, but on other parts of the body significant damage could occur. Most notably in upper ear cartilage, these studs have been documented as being able to actually shatter the tissue, leading to collapse of the ear altogether and other serious problems. The “one-size-fits-all” nature of the studs (short; designed for a close fit around an earlobe) compounded this problem and by compressing the tissue could lead to increased swelling and irritation, which often would eventually lead to infection and/or rejection.
Finally, the design of the guns in general was not really conducive to accurate placement. While they could “hit their marks” on lobes most of the time, their design made it difficult to accurately place the jewelry in any other part of the body — although I should point out that most reputable piercing gun manufacturers do emphasize that their guns are only to be used on earlobes and even go so far as to cancel the contracts of businesses that abuse their guns.
While I’m mentioning “reputable” piercing gun manufacturers (it makes me sick to say that) I’ll also point out that a number have redesigned their guns to use disposable cartridges which go a long way to making them “single use”, thus dramatically reducing the chances of passing contamination from client to client. In a perfect world one might be able to make the argument that this design of gun is perfectly appropriate for use on earlobes.
It’s not a perfect world.
One has to take the human factor into account — this doesn’t solve the problem. It simply shifts the blame.
A body piercer is expected to have at least a year of apprenticeship before they’re considered “trained”. Not because piercing — the act of piercing itself — is in and of itself difficult, but because there’s an enormous amount of peripheral knowledge that must be learned and practiced in order to keep the client safe. It’s not unusual for a piercing gun technician to receive just an hour’s training in the food court of some mall… Do you really think that’s enough time to adequately explain and train the finer points of universal precautions?
You see, even if the disposable cartridge type of piercing gun goes a long way to addressing the obvious contamination issues, if the surrounding area (the gun body, the outside of the cases, the storage bins, the hands of the technician, whatever) becomes contaminated, it’s all for naught. The same of course goes for piercing studios, nail salons, barber shops, and any other business that comes in contact with blood; its safety really is judged by the lowest common denominator.
In addition to poorly trained staff potentially negating any benefits to the redesigned guns, the issues that make the gun unsuitable for anything other than at best earlobes have not been addressed and likely can not be addressed. And that — the fact that the gun will never be anything other than a tool for punching holes in earlobes — is the main reason that BME doesn’t support the piercing gun and doesn’t publish stories built around it.
But BME does publish things like self-piercing stories, often highly irresponsible and misguided. So why not publish stories using a gun? Doesn’t the end justify the means, at least a little? I don’t think so; in my opinion piercing guns are a dead end. Piercing guns have nothing to do with body modification. They’re a mistake.
Look at it this way; if you wanted to become an astronaut, would you teach yourself to drive a motorboat, or would you teach yourself to fly an airplane? Both are methods of transportation, and really, it’s a lot cheaper and a lot more accessible to learn to be the skipper of a little fishing boat… But it’s not a path that leads you toward the heavens — just as piercing guns will not lead you to body modification.
There is no direct bridge between the piercing gun industry and the body modification community. Sure, you can “move up” from the gun, but it represents not a step up from where you are, but instead a rejection of where you are and the embarkation on an entirely new path with sounder philosophies and methodologies. What that means is that by contributing financially and socially to the piercing gun industry, you are helping solidify a false path (and again, that ignores the fundamental health factors that on their own should be enough to convince any lucid individual to stay away from these devices).
If BME were to pledge support to the piercing gun industry it would be spitting in the face of the piercing and body modification communities by propping up a business that in my opinion not only endangers its customers but misleads them about their potential future. After all, the easiest way to keep a person from achieving enlightenment is by sending them on a holy quest that is anything but holy — nearly every religion warns in its own way of the danger of false idols and dead end paths.
I realize that I’m largely preaching to the choir here, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have friends and relatives who end up in the sights of the well-funded and well-advertised piercing gun machine… Remember, “friends don’t let friends get gunned”. Unless you’re looking for a dead end path that’ll put your life in needless danger (and, if body modification is a spiritual act, perhaps even put your soul in peril), seek out a professional that can do a good job making all your dreams come true… not some hack that at best can do a shoddy job of making one dream come true, with no hope for the rest.
Needles, dermal punches, and scalpels make my day.