An 18-year-old from Battle Creek, Michigan is suing Dick’s Sporting Good for not selling him a shotgun because of his age, less than two weeks after the store announced it would no longer sell guns to anyone under 21.
Tristin Fulton and his attorney, Jim Makowski, filed the lawsuit on March 6, demanding that Dick’s reverse its new policy and award Fulton at least $25,000 in damages, according to Makowski. Makowski said Fulton is more interested in a policy reversal than the money. If a policy change isn’t possible, his client would like to see Dick’s “get out of the firearms business” in the state of Michigan, he told TPM Friday.
Fulton attempted to purchase a shotgun at Dick’s last week and was denied, according to a cellphone video of the encounter shared with TPM. The video was filmed by his uncle, Joel Fulton, who, along with Tristin Fulton’s father, Jared Fulton, co-owns Freedom Firearms, a shooting range business that teaches concealed carry classes in Battle Creek, Michigan, according to the company’s website. Freedom Firearms also sells handguns, shotguns, rifles, ammunition and magazines on its site.
Makowski said Fulton “absolutely” knew about Dick’s new policy when he entered the store to purchase the gun and said his client acknowledges that he “could’ve bought a firearm from his father or his uncle, but he’s under no obligation to do so.” He said the suit is more focused on Dick’s violation of Fulton’s civil rights.
The attorney claimed that under the state’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, a public accommodation like Dick’s Sporting Goods is prohibited from discrimination based on age, among other things. A 20-year-old in Oregon is using a similar state law as the basis for his recent lawsuits against both Walmart and Dick’s for not selling him a 22-caliber rifle.
“Saying he could’ve gone elsewhere, every retailer says that,” Makowski told TPM Friday. “‘No, Mrs. Parks, you didn’t have to ride at the front of the bus.’ That’s where we’re at. Fifty years ago, it may have been African Americans in this position.
“If you’re a member of a protected group, your civil rights should be protected,” he continued. “And age is a protected group in Michigan.”
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, which already stopped selling AR-15s and other types of semi-automatic weapons in 2015, also announced just a few days later that it will no longer sell firearms or ammunition to anyone under 21 years of age.
Mikowski also suggested the new policy was the “same thing” as if the store decided to “stop the threat of terrorism” by “stopping selling to Muslims.” Makowski said he “hopes” his client’s suit will become part of a larger trend of retaliation against the firearms retail giant for its policy change.
“What they are doing is illegal and it’s wrong,” he said. “They’re punishing a whole group of citizens for the actions of one person. … Don’t make up your own rules and follow the law.”
Dick’s defended it’s decision to change its gun sale policy after a 19-year-old in Parkland, Florida allegedly opened fire at a high school on Valentines Day, killing 17 people. Dick’s CEO Edward Stack told CNN last month that the company “expects backlash,” but didn’t “want to be part of this story any longer.” A Dick’s spokesperson did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment on the latest lawsuit.
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