Both Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods announced last month that they would stop selling firearms to anyone under the age of 21. But their do-gooder plans have hit a snag in Oregon, where a 20-year-old is suing both companies for “age discrimination.”
Tyler Watson tried to purchase a Ruger 10/22 from Dick’s subsidiary Field and Stream and an unspecified rifle from Wal-Mart, according to the official complaints. In both instances, the clerk informed Watson of the company’s new policy not to sell rifles, shotguns, or ammunition to anyone under the age of 21, and denied the purchase.
Watson and his attorneys argue that these policies violate Oregon Statue 659A.403, which bars age discrimination in places of “public accommodation” like retail stores. The law makes specific exceptions for alcohol and marijuana sellers, but does not make an exception from firearms dealers:
659A.403 Discrimination in place of public accommodation prohibited.
(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, all persons within the jurisdiction of this state are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation, without any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is of age, as described in this section, or older.
(2) Subsection (1) of this section does not prohibit:
(a) The enforcement of laws governing the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors and the frequenting by minors of places of public accommodation where alcoholic beverages are served;
(b) The enforcement of laws governing the use of marijuana items … by persons under 21 years of age and the frequenting by persons under 21 years of age of places of public accommodation where marijuana items are sold; or
(c) The offering of special rates or services to persons 50 years of age or older.
(3) It is an unlawful practice for any person to deny full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation in violation of this section….
These retailers didn’t just violate the law, according to the complaints. They “willfully” violated it by issuing press releases and other materials advertising their decision to discriminate based on age.
The complaints don’t mention this specifically, but these willful violations likely include Dick’s CEO Edward Stack’s virtue signaling in every major media outlet.
“When we saw what happened in Parkland, we were so disturbed and upset,” Stack said in an interview with the New York Times. “We love these kids and their rallying cry, ‘Enough is enough.’ It got to us.”
He added, “We’re going to take a stand and step up and tell people our view and, hopefully, bring people along into the conversation.”
Stack’s PR gambit may come back to bite him. Despite his company’s insistence that the policy is “in accordance with the law,” legal experts like UCLA’s Eugene Volokh call the case “open and shut for the plaintiff and against Dick’s.”
The Democrat-controlled Oregon legislature could always amend the law to include a firearm exception or raise the age limit for firearm purchases for all retailers, but for now it looks like Watson is going to get his guns.