A 20-year-old Oregon man on Monday filed lawsuits against Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods for refusing to sell him a firearm, just a week after both retailers announced they would not sell guns to anyone under the age of 21.
Tyler Watson, a 20-year-old from Gold Hill, Oregon, alleged in lawsuits filed separately against both retailers that they discriminated against him based on his age when they refused to sell him firearms.
Watson claimed that he attempted to purchase a .22 caliber Ruger rifle from Dick’s on Feb. 24 and then tried to buy a gun from Walmart on March 3. According to the lawsuit, both retailers refused to sell Watson a firearm because of his age. Oregon state law allows anybody to purchase rifles or shotguns starting at the age of 18, but federal law requires a person to be 21 in order to purchase a handgun, though that restriction does not extend to shotguns or rifles.
The lawsuits were filed the week after both retailers announced new restrictions on gun sales after a 19-year-old allegedly opened fire with an AR-15 rifle at a high school in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people died.
Dick’s announced on Feb. 28 that it will no longer sell assault-style rifles and that a customer would have to be 21 years old in order to purchase any gun from its stores. Walmart stopped selling AR-15s and other types of semi-automatic weapons in 2015, but also announced last week that it will no longer sell firearms or ammunition to anyone under 21 years of age.
Watson in his lawsuits demanded that both retailers “stop unlawfully discriminating against 18, 19 and 20-year-old customers” in Oregon. He is also seeking punitive damages for “illegal age discrimination” in violation of state law.
Watson’s attorney Max Whittington told the Oregonian in an interview published Monday that his client is the first to file suit against the retail giants for their policy change. Whittington said Watson did not know about the new policy when he attempted to purchase the weapon.
“He was really just trying to buy a rifle,” Whittington told the Oregonian.
Whittington did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.
A Walmart spokesperson told the Oregonian that the corporation plans to stand by and defend its new policy. A Dick’s Sporting Goods spokesperson did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.