Oregon Age Discrimination Suit Over Guns Should Be Slam Dunk Win

By Eugene Volokh. This article first appeared on Reason.com.
Oregon law generally bans discrimination in selling goods based on age, so this lawsuit looks like a winner.

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Oregon Age Discrimination Suit Over Guns Should Be Slam Dunk Win

Oregon – -(Ammoland.com)- The case against Dick's Sporting Goods — which raises the claim discussed here last week — is Watson v. Dick's Sporting Goods, Inc., just filed yesterday in Jackson County (Oregon) Circuit Court; the Oregonian (Aimee Green)reports that the same plaintiff also filed a lawsuit against Walmart.

Oregon is one of the states that bans retailers from discriminating based on age against customers age 18 and above. The Oregon statute says it generally applies to any person who is “of age,” which appears to mean 18, the age of majority in Oregon, at least for those products that are legal to sell to 18-to-20-year-olds (as long guns are in Oregon). Indeed, the statute specifically mentions alcohol and marijuana sellers for special treatment, but makes no such special provision for gun sellers:

659A.403 Discrimination in place of public accommodation prohibited. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, all persons within the jurisdiction of this state are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation, without any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is of age, as described in this section, or older.

(2) Subsection (1) of this section does not prohibit:

(a) The enforcement of laws governing the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors and the frequenting by minors of places of public accommodation where alcoholic beverages are served;

(b) The enforcement of laws governing the use of marijuana items … by persons under 21 years of age and the frequenting by persons under 21 years of age of places of public accommodation where marijuana items are sold; or

(c) The offering of special rates or services to persons 50 years of age or older.

(3) It is an unlawful practice for any person to deny full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation in violation of this section….

659A.406 Aiding or abetting certain discrimination prohibited. Except as otherwise authorized by ORS 659A.403, it is an unlawful practice for any person to aid or abet any place of public accommodation, as defined in ORS 659A.400, or any employee or person acting on behalf of the place of public accommodation to make any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is 18 years of age or older.

659A.409 Notice that discrimination will be made in place of public accommodation prohibited; age exceptions. Except as provided by laws governing the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors, the use of marijuana items … by persons under 21 years of age, the frequenting by minors of places of public accommodation where alcoholic beverages are served and the frequenting by persons under 21 years of age of places of public accommodation where marijuana items are sold, and except for special rates or services offered to persons 50 years of age or older, it is an unlawful practice for any person acting on behalf of any place of public accommodation as defined in ORS 659A.400 to publish, circulate, issue or display, or cause to be published, circulated, issued or displayed, any communication, notice, advertisement or sign of any kind to the effect that any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, services or privileges of the place of public accommodation will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination will be made against, any person on account of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is of age, as described in this section, or older.

The statute provides (in sec. 659A.885) that, if the plaintiff wins, he shall be awarded reasonable attorney fees, and may also be awarded compensatory and punitive damages; the court may also issue an injunction barring the defendant from continuing to violate the law. The lawsuit indeed seeks such remedies (except for compensatory damages).

There are plausible arguments to be made about whether laws banning discrimination in public accommodations are generally a good idea, whether laws banning discrimination in retail sales are generally a good idea (federal law, for instance, doesn't apply to most retail stores), whether laws banning discrimination in retail sales based on age are generally a good idea (most states don't ban such discrimination), whether there ought to be exemptions to such laws for 18-to-20-year-olds, whether there ought to be exemptions to such laws for 18-to-20-year-olds who want to buy guns, and more. Those would be plausible arguments to make to state legislatures.

But this case isn't a common-law tort case, or a constitutional case, in which courts make decisions about what should or shouldn't be covered — it's a case applying this particular statute in this particular state. And under this statute, the case seems open and shut for the plaintiff and against Dick's.

Thanks to Eric Stahlfeld for the pointer.

  • 11 thoughts on “Oregon Age Discrimination Suit Over Guns Should Be Slam Dunk Win

    1. I hope the state of Oregon supports this guy in his fight against Dick and Wallyworld. Support to the extent to pad his pockets with enough green stuff to help him in his life journey. Illegal acts can not be committed by any CEO and not be shot down.

    2. The state of fl today passed a law that you have to be 21 instead of 18 without public vote with should be sued for being iligal

    3. California North starts at the Willamette Valley and goes north, not at the Southern border of Oregon. Here in Southern Oregon, we are Conservative and have absolutely nothing in common with California North. We definitely need to form a new state like what was thought about several years ago and was going to be called The State of Jefferson. Those nut cases up North shove their Liberal garbage down our throats and we are way more than sick and tired of it. If California decides they want to actually want to start another Civil War I will be manning a blockade at the border along with many other Conservatives. BEWARE OF STUPID PEOPLE IN LARGE GROUPS!!!!! DRAIN THE SWAMP!!!!!

    4. The issue is that FFL dealers are allowed to deny the sale for any reason, which technically allows discrimination that would otherwise be illegal. This is an interesting test case on discrimination on sales of firearms.

      As far as selling firearms to those under 21 years the old, some states, such as Virginia, allow private sales, transfers, and gifts, etc., of handguns to those 18 years to 20 years old. They also allowed to possess them in public, but not CC.

      1. Sorry, no they are not. For example, they cannot refuse to sell to females, or Blacks, or Catholics or Jews OR, in this case, a 19 year old who is protected by STATE Law!

      2. it IS in Jackson County, far away in both distance and idealogy from the socialistic SHole that is Portland.
        What would be great woud be for about a dozen more such suits being filed all across the rural areas of the state. One in Josephine, Klamath, Coos, Curry, Klamath, Jefferson, Malheur, Clatsop…….

        1. @Tionico…I made that same suggestion yesterday except, I think it should be done in each state where they are trying this. Florida you listening ? If this gets passed nationally every state in the union. Google must be censoring again . I have a couple of posts out there I have not been able to find .

      3. The Oregon legislature caved to Bloomburg a couple years back, and have now imposed universal backgorunc checks on ALL transfers except immediat family members in the state. Just as in Washington, whose stupid voters bought Bloomie’s lies about three years ago, it changed the effective age for handgun ownership. Used to be in both states anyone 18 to 21 could purchase any firearm on a private sale, no NICS involved. No more. With this policy of Dick’s and Walmart, it effectively changes the ability to possess all firearms for those under 21. Such afe discrimination by a business in Oregon is illegal. This suit has great merit. Let’s hope it does well. I suspect a jury in Jackson County will strongly favour this young man.

    5. I wonder if this case may be opening up a door to repeal the prohibition of handgun purchase for 18-20 year olds?
      I removed when 18 year olds got the right to vote and for a short time the right to drink alcohol.

      18-20 year olds have power they don’t realize they have if they start leveraging it to regain lost/equal rights.

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