20-year-old sues Dick’s, Walmart over new gun policies

Posted at 3:29 PM, Mar 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-06 19:07:27-05

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A 20-year-old man from Oregon has filed lawsuits against Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart, alleging the two retailers discriminated against him when they refused to sell him a rifle this week because of his age.

Dick’s and Walmart restricted gun sales to people 21 and older in the wake of the Florida high school massacre. The 19-year-old accused in the school slaying legally bought the AR-15 used in the attack.

The lawsuits, obtained by The Associated Press, are believed to be the first filed over the new gun policies enacted in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting in Florida.

Oregon law allows residents to buy shotguns or rifles starting at 18.

Tyler Watson’s lawsuits filed against the retailers in two separate counties claim he faced age discrimination from Dick’s and Walmart.

The lawsuits 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.

The bureau will present a bill to add a similar age restriction for gun sales to the legislature next year for consideration, he said, adding that the policies seemed “appropriate” because they attempted to make public spaces safer.

Avakian also urged lawmakers to pass a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, among other things.

Legal papers say a store owned by Dick’s Sporting Goods in Medford, Oregon, refused to sell Watson a .22-caliber Ruger rifle on Feb. 24. The suit says a Walmart in Grants Pass, Oregon, refused to sell him an unspecified type of rifle on March 3.

Watson did not know about the restrictions when he tried to buy a rifle, his attorney Max Whittington, told The Oregonian/OregonLive, which first reported on the lawsuits Monday. Whittington did not immediately return a call from the AP on Tuesday.

Watson is not part of an organized effort to push back against the retailers’ policy, the lawyer added.

“He was really just trying to buy a rifle,” Whittington told the newspaper.

Watson, of Gold Hill, Oregon, could not be reached for comment.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the retailer plans to defend the new policy.

“We stand behind our decision and plan to defend it,” he said. “While we haven’t seen the complaint, we will respond as appropriate with the court.”

A representative of Dick’s didn’t immediately return a call from The AP on Tuesday.