Discussion of a House proposal to restrict the use of tanning beds by minors has turned into an impassioned floor debate between Republicans over whether the idea protects children, or is meddling by the government.

Representatives Jay Barnes (left) and Gary Cross. (photos courtesy, Missouri House Communications)

Lee’s Summit Republican Gary Cross’s bill requires a parent or guardian of those under 17 go to a solon in person annually to give permission for that teenager to use them, and was amended on the floor to prevent children under 15 from using tanning devices altogether.

Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City), a skin cancer survivor, offered that amendment. He said of Cross’ bill, “It’s a simple measure designed to protect kids. Kids are different than adults for the same reason we went through last year with concussion legislation. Kids are not old enough to make decisions on their own and they deserve our protection.”

Cross likens the plan to the purchase of tobacco products or alcohol or getting tattoos or piercings. “This is much more fatal. Young people are much more vulnerable than with tattoos or even the use of tobacco. Here we are dealing with something we have absolutely no legislation regarding.”

The bill drew opposition from some other GOP members. Representative Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) says it interferes in parents’ ability to raise their children. “Cancer is a horrible thing to happen to anybody and I would never wish that on anyone, but … I just don’t think this is the role of our government … to play big brother and tell you what you are and you are not going to do.”

Brattin said the issue is not like buying cigarettes or pornography, which is not legal for those under 18.

Barnes disagreed. “You know why they’re illegal under the age of 18? Because our predecessors in this body made it illegal! They said this is an activity that 11-year-olds shouldn’t participate in … because somebody had the guts to stand up for kids! That’s why!”

The bill has been laid aside without a vote.

UPDATE:  The House has approve a motion to send the bill back to the Rules Committee to remove Representative Jay Barnes’ amendment, prohibiting the use of tanning beds for those under 15.  Barnes says he supports removing the amendment, and he plans to pursue the idea next year.  He says he and other lawmakers hope to get the original bill back to the floor for debate next week.