A 20-year-old Oregon man filed lawsuits this week against Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart, accusing the retailers of age discrimination after they refused to sell him a rifle because of new age restrictions on gun sales set by the companies.
Tyler Watson filed his lawsuits in two separate counties where he was denied service because of his age. His lawsuits were believed to be among the first since the two largest gun sellers in the U.S. announced their new policy changing the age for gun purchases from 18 to 21.
The policy changes came soon after the Feb. 14 school massacre in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead and reignited a fierce national debate about the Second Amendment and gun ownership rights in the U.S.
The Florida shooting was allegedly perpetrated by a 19-year-old who legally purchased an AR-15 rifle.
Dickâ€™s also announced last month that it would end sales of â€œassault-style riflesâ€� in its stores.
Federal law currently prevents citizens under 18 from buying a rifle.
Watson’s lawsuit claims a store owned by Dick’s Sporting Goods in Medford, Ore., refused to sell him a 22-caliber Ruger rifle on Feb. 24. He claims that Grants Pass Walmart in Oregon refused to sell him a gun March 3.
“He was really just trying to buy a rifle,” said Watsonâ€™s attorney, Max Whittington. Watson is asking judges to force gun sellers to â€œstop unlawfully discriminating against 18, 19 and 20-year-old customers at all Oregon locations.”
He is also seeking unspecified punitive damages.
Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the retailer will defend its 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.”
The controversy over the age restriction recently prompted two employees of Dick’s to resign after the companyâ€™s CEO announced the new policy.
Alexander DeGarmo, 20, told Fox Business that the new age requirement meant that he could no longer buy items he sold to customers.
“Until [Dickâ€™s CEO] Edward Stack came out with these absolutely arbitrary and insane rules I had no issue [working there],” DeGarmo said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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