You had to know it was going to happen. The moment Dick’s Sporting Goods said it would no longer sell any firearm to anyone under the age of 21, you had to know that a lawsuit would be filed. The moment Walmart followed their lead, you had to know they’d get wrapped up in it too.
Now, it’s happening. It seems a 20-year-old doesn’t like being told they won’t sell to him because of his age, a clear case of age discrimination.
An Oregon man has hauled two major sporting goods retailers into court, claiming they have violated the state’s discrimination laws after they refused to sell him a rifle due to his age.
Tyler Watson, 20, filed suit in a state court against both Dick’s and Walmart arguing the stores, who sell sporting goods to include firearms to the general public, specifically refused to sell him a rifle because he was under age 21, citing recently adopted company policies.
According to court documents, Watson tried to buy a Ruger 10/22 from a Field & Stream store, owned by Dick’s, in Medford on Feb. 24 and was refused due to his age. Last week, Watson doubled-down by going to a Walmart in Grant’s Pass, where he was similarly rebuffed for the same reason.
While federal regulators advise licensed gun dealers they can, and should, exercise their right to refuse potentially unlawful firearms transactions, Watson is taking the big box stores to court over Oregon’s discrimination statutes where the case may hold some legal water.
Jim Hargreaves, a retired county judge in the state, told Willamette Week that Oregon law states that as long as a person is an adult, they can’t be refused something based on age that’s ordinarily available to other adults.
Further, while federal regulators may advise dealers to exercise their right to refuse service on questionable people, it doesn’t give permission to discriminate against someone simply because of their date of birth.
Look, I tend to take the approach that businesses can do business with whoever they want to. However, if people are going to be required to bake wedding cakes despite their religious convictions, I’m going to take issue with major retailers deciding to discriminate against customers based on age.
Oregon’s discrimination statutes may open up the can of worms, but more lawsuits would need to follow to convince either retailer that they need to step back from this policy. Otherwise, a win here will likely only change the policy in Oregon and the rest of the stores throughout the nation will continue to discriminate against 18 to 20-year-olds.
But if they are challenged in enough states, the policy will change simply because it’s getting too expensive to fight legal battles over such things. That needs to happen.
The truth of the matter is, you don’t get it both ways. You can’t live in a world where people you disagree with get hammered by policies, but people you agree with get preferential treatment. The rules either apply to everyone, or they’re broken. It’s just that simple.
This lawsuit is the first challenge that will press the courts to acknowledge that fact.