Oregon Labor Commissioner Says Stores’ New Gun-Sale Restrictions May Violate State Law

The restrictions were meant to “make public places safer,” but Oregon may have to change its laws to authorize new age limits on gun sales.

Gun show background check (WW archives)

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries wrote a letter March 6 to Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek, advising them that state law would likely support a complaint that stores raising the age for gun sales to 21 are engaged in age discrimination.

The agency declined to comment on any specific lawsuits, saying "every case must be decided on its own merits." However, the BOLI letter lends weight to two lawsuits filed March 5 by a 20-year-old Gold Hills, Ore. man against Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods, claiming the stores violated state law by refusing to sell him a gun before he turned 21.

A former Lane County judge, Jim Hargreaves, first raised concerns on wweek.com that the age restrictions instated by Walmart, Dick's Sporting Goods, Bi-Mart and Fred Meyer stores might violate Oregon's non-discrimination laws.

Those state laws protect people from being discriminated against based on race, gender and religion. The law also protects people from discrimination based on age—as long as a person is a legal adult, they can't be barred from anything that's available to the public.

Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian says that while the policies likely violate those laws, they were meant to "make public places safer" and told Kotek and Courtney that he intends to introduce a bill in 2019 to place guns among the products that are listed as exceptions to the law—like tobacco and alcohol.

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