Following the recent shooting incident in Florida, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart pushed forth new gun policies which prohibit the sale of rifles and shotguns to people under 21-years-old.
Fox Business reports a 20-year-old named Tyler Watson, who is from Oregon, is suing the stores for the alleged discriminating age restrictions.
Per the report:
The lawsuits, obtained by The Associated Press, are believed to be the first filed over the new gun policies.
Oregon law allows residents to buy shotguns or rifles starting at 18.
Tyler Watson’s lawsuits, which were filed against the retailers in Jackson and Josephine counties, both ask a judge to put a stop to the retailers’ new gun sale policies and award punitive damages because of the “willful nature of the discrimination.”
On Tuesday, the state Bureau of Labor and Industries said in a letter to state legislative leaders that the bureau would accept complaints from Oregonians who feel they have been discriminated against by the policies.
Without commenting on the merits of Watson’s lawsuits, Commissioner Brad Avakian said state law currently only allows for age-related exemptions for alcohol and marijuana sales.
According to the report, the 20-year-old tried purchasing a firearm at each store before he was denied twice.
“Legal papers filed Monday say a store owned by Dick’s Sporting Goods in Medford, Oregon, refused to sell Watson a .22-caliber Ruger rifle on or around Feb. 24,” Fox Business reports. “The other suit says a Walmart in Grants Pass, Oregon, refused to sell him an unspecified type of rifle on March 3.”
Dick’s originally announced the move after they were made aware the 19-year-old gunman involved in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida purchased a gun at one of their stores. The gunman did not however use the weapon during his rampage. Walmart subsequently followed the decision to change their gun policy as well.
“We stand behind our decision and plan to defend it,” Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said, per the report. “While we haven’t seen the complaint, we will respond as appropriate with the court.”
The case against Dick’s Sporting Goods — which raises the claim discussed here last week — is Watson v. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc., just filed yesterday in Jackson County (Oregon) Circuit Court; the Oregonian (Aimee Green)reports that the same plaintiff also filed a lawsuit against Walmart.
Oregon is one of the states that bans retailers from discriminating based on age against customers age 18 and above. The Oregon statute says it generally applies to any person who is “of age,” which appears to mean 18, the age of majority in Oregon, at least for those products that are legal to sell to 18-to-20-year-olds (as long guns are in Oregon). Indeed, the statute specifically mentions alcohol and marijuana sellers for special treatment, but makes no such special provision for gun sellers
USA Today reports the lawsuit carries some merit as “these actions by companies are on shaky legal ground”:
Former U.S. attorney general Albert Gonzales told Fox News last week that he anticipated that retailers’ revised age restrictions for gun sales would face legal tests in state or local courts.
“These are lawful products, like them or not,” said Adam Winkler, a professor at the UCLA School of Law who has written about the constitutional right to bear arms and is the author of We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights.
“I think these actions by companies are on shaky legal grounds in many states,” added Winkler.
Separately, the National Rifle Association last month criticized legislative proposals to ban people under age 21 from buying rifles or shotguns.
“Passing a law that makes it illegal for a 20-year-old to purchase a shotgun for hunting or an adult single mother from purchasing the most effective self-defense rifle on the market punishes law-abiding citizens for the evil acts of criminals,” the gun rights organization said.