Dick's settles age discrimination suit over refused gun sale to man under 21

The controversial big box sporting goods retailer and a 20-year-old Oregon man they refused to sell a gun to based on his age have reached a settlement.

Tyler Watson, who claimed that Dick’s violated the state’s discrimination statutes after they refused to sell him a rifle because he was not at least 21 years old, has reportedly reached an agreement to end a pending lawsuit. The terms of the settlement have not been released but the man had sought $1 million in damages.

Watson filed his legal challenge earlier this year after he tried to buy a Ruger 10/22 from a Field & Stream store, owned by Dick’s, in Medford and was refused due to his age. While federal regulators advise licensed gun dealers they can exercise their right to refuse potentially unlawful firearms transactions, Watson brought Dicks to court over Oregon’s discrimination protections where the law seemed to be on the would-be gun buyer’s side.

“From the text of the statute, it looked like a very strong case,” Jim Oleske, a professor at Lewis and Clark Law School specializing in anti-discrimination law, told Oregon Public Broadcasting in reference to the filing.

Dick’s in February changed its gun policy to refuse sales of firearms and ammunition to those under age 21. The change, coupled with a shift towards advocating for more national regulation on firearms and embracing gun control advocates, resulted in making the brand a pariah of sorts in the gun industry, as several manufacturers severed ties with the retailer. Dick’s has subsequently reported a drop in sales and has signaled they may move away from stocking hunting products altogether.

As for Watson, he still has a separate lawsuit pending against Walmart, a chain that adopted a similar policy to Dick’s. Watson tried to purchase a gun from the Walmart location in Grant’s Pass and was refused. In August, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries found that a teen, Hannah Brumbles, was the victim of age discrimination in violation of state accommodations law after the retailer refused to sell her a gun over their new internal policy.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade group for the firearms industry, warns FFLs that at least nine states and Washington, D.C. allow for a private right of action where it comes to age discrimination laws.

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