WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A 20-year-old man from Oregon has sued Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods over their decisions to raise the age of gun buyers from 18 to 21.
- The two biggest gun sellers in the U.S. made the move following the Parkland high school shooting massacre, an Oregon local newspaper reported.
- The Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida ignited the long-time national debate on gun control.
Unable to purchase a rifle, Tyler Watson of Gold Hill, Oregon, filed two lawsuits against Walmart and Dick’s on Monday in separate state courts in counties. According to the Oregonian newspaper, which published the court documents online, Watson was asking the courts to require the gun sellers to revoke the new policies.
According to a lawsuit filed in Jackson County, Watson said he attempted to purchase a .22 caliber rifle at a Dick’s Field & Stream store on Feb. 24. While in a lawsuit filed in Josephine County, he said he also tried to buy a rifle at a Walmart store on March 3.
Staff at both stores did not sell Watson a firearm telling him about their new “purchase age” policy. He charged both sellers with violation of Oregon’s age discrimination law.
Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman, said in a statement: “We stand behind our decision and plan to defend it.”
The officials at Dick’s did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
The high school shooting at Parkland, Florida, prompted a series of protests led by Stoneman Douglas’ students. They are calling for new gun regulations, asking lawmakers from different states including Florida to raise the minimum age to buy firearms of any kind from 18 to 21.
John Donohue, a professor at Stanford Law School, said that federal age discrimination laws in most states only apply to people over 40. However, Oregon’s state law generally forbids age discrimination “against the selling of goods to anyone above the age of 18,” he added.
“It is only because of this unusual state law that there is even an opportunity to bring this claim,” Donohue said.
Watson’s lawyer, Max Whittington, told the Oregonian that his client did not plan a lawsuit when he entered the gun stores.
“He was really just trying to buy a rifle and didn’t know about the policy.” Whittington said.
Whittington did not respond immediately to a request for comment.