Two men have filed complaints against Fred Meyer and Bi-Mart because the stores refused to sell them a rifle and ammunition after the retailers announced they wouldn’t sell any weapons or ammunition to anyone younger than 21.

The complaints were filed with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Civil Rights Division, which has a year to investigate whether the retailers’ actions violated the state’s public accommodations law. The law bars anyone who is 18 and older from being discriminated against on the basis of age.

The only exception is for specific health and safety reasons spelled out in laws for the sale of alcohol, marijuana and facilities designated for people 50 and older.

Jackson Starrett, 19, stated in his complaint that he went to a Fred Meyer store in Canby on March 5 to buy a rifle. He was asked if he was 21 and was told he could not buy a rifle because of his age. In the second complaint, Hayden Parsons, 20, who lists a Bend address, went into a Bi-Mart store in Eugene on March 6 to purchase ammunition for his long rifle, but was unable to make the purchase because of the store’s policy not to sell guns or ammunition to anyone younger than 21, he said in his complaint.

These complaints follow legal challenges against Walmart Inc. and Dick’s Sporting Goods’ Field & Stream stores, filed in circuit courts in Jackson and Josephine counties on behalf of a 20-year-old Gold Hill man who tried to purchase a rifle, but was turned away because he was under 21.

In Oregon, generally stores are considered public accommodations, and at those kinds of places, the public cannot be discriminated against because of age, except in the case of alcohol and marijuana sales, wrote Brad Avakian, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries to Sen. Peter Courtney D-Salem on March 6.

“The retailers’ policies to deny gun sales to those under 21 represents a common sense effort to make public places safer,” Avakian wrote.

The only way to change the accommodations law would be through new legislation, Avakian wrote. The bureau will draft legislation for lawmakers to consider, he wrote.

In the age-discrimination lawsuits that were filed March 5 against Walmart Inc. and Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc., Tyler Watson is seeking damages and asking the court to force companies to stop their policies. The next hearing on Watson’s suit will be April 5, according to court records.

Calls and emails by The Bulletin seeking comment from Kroger, which is Fred Meyer’s parent company, Fred Meyer and Bi-Mart were not returned.

Earlier this month, Walmart Inc., Bi-Mart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kroger and its Fred Meyer stores announced they would stop selling firearms and ammunition to anyone under 21. Their actions came in response to the Feb. 14 massacre in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and wounded another 14. The 19-year-old shooter used a legally purchased AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Last week, Kroger took another step and announced it would not sell any weapons or ammunition.

Some retailers announced in the wake of the Parkland shootings they would immediately stop selling assault weapons like AR-15s.

Walmart stopped selling semi-automatic weapons in 2015, according to wire reports.

— Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com

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