The 18-year old son of a Michigan firearms retailer is suing Dick’s Sporting Goods after they refused to sell him a shotgun at one of their locations in the northern suburb of Troy. Pennfield High School senior Tristin Fulton filed the suit in Oakland County Circuit Court on March 6.
The 18-year old son of a Michigan firearms retailer is suing Dick’s Sporting Goods after they refused to sell him a shotgun at one of their locations in the northern suburb of Troy due to a new policy. Pennfield High School senior Tristin Fulton filed the suit in Oakland County Circuit Court on March 6.
Fulton says that by denying him his right to buy a firearm, they were in violation of the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, creed, national origin, sex, age and other factors.
Fulton’s father is the co-owner of Freedom Firearms in Battle Creek, MI. The gun shop offers CPL (Concealed pistol license) training classes and an indoor shooting range. It is unclear why the 18-year old was attempting to purchase a shotgun from a competitor.
The lawsuit comes mere days after Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart issued public statements saying that they would raise the minimum age of gun sales from 18 to 21. Already, two 20-year old Dick’s employees have resigned in response to CEO Edward Stack’s directive.
Mr. Fulton is the second young man to sue over the new policy so far.
Twenty-year old Oregon resident Tyler Watson has filed dual suits against Walmart and Dick’s after a Dick’s-owned Field & Stream location refused to sell him a 22-caliber rifle due to his age. Unlike Fulton, Watson was denied the sale four days prior to the retailers’ announcement of their revised policies.
Fulton is calling for Dick’s to rescind the new policy and is seeking at least $25,000 in monetary damages according to his lawyer, Jim Makowski. Mr. Makowski was quick to add that Mr. Fulton is more interested in a policy reversal than the money. Watson is seeking unspecified punitive damages.
Watson’s attorney clarified that his suit is not an organized effort to push back against the retailer’s policy whereas Fulton’s case is. Attorney Max Whittington told The Oregonian, “He [Watson] was really just trying to buy a rifle.”
The three lawsuits arrive in the wake of widespread media hoopla surrounding gun control. The national gun debate began in the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Two survivors of the shooting are currently in the process of suing the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, the Broward School Board and other defendants for negligence.
In the weeks since the shooting, lawmakers have been pushing legislation to restrict gun calibers or high capacity magazines, strengthen background checks and ban bump stocks like those used in last year’s Las Vegas shooting.
In the past, background checks and the micro-stamping of ammunition have attracted the ire of firearms groups. In September of 2017, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) argued that California’s law requiring new semi-automatic handguns to have the ability to microstamp shells was something that could not be done.
ProCon.org has opined that laws like background checks and micro-stamping are an invasion of privacy, much like credit reports being viewed illegally. The same has been said about the prospect of a national gun registry.
In December of 2016, four Pennsylvania gun owners sued the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department for allegedly invading their privacy by using postcards to deliver notices about the status of their concealed carry permits.
Back in 2011, Florida legislators passed the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act in response to concerns by residents whose physicians asked them if they owned guns. This medical privacy law made it illegal for doctors to make inquiries regarding firearms.
Of course, not everyone wants to keep their gun ownership private. Among those who have been vocal about gun ownership is Tristin Fulton who has told the press that Dick’s Sporting Goods’ decision to refuse him service violates his civil rights.
The Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act on which Fulton’s case hinges was passed in 1976 and extends to public accommodations. Under U.S. law, public accommodations are generally defined as facilities used by the public. One example of this is a retail store, of which Dick’s Sporting Goods is one.
Protection against unlawful discrimination by public accommodations is also covered at a state level in Michigan and, according to Section 37.2302 of the Michigan legislature, “Except where permitted by law, a person shall not: (a) Deny an individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation.”
In their original press release, Dick’s said, “We support and respect the Second Amendment, and we recognize and appreciate that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible, law-abiding citizens. But we have to help solve the problem that’s in front of us.”
Dick’s Sporting Goods has yet to issue a public statement regarding the lawsuit.