Michigan Lawsuit Against Dick's Sporting Goods for Age Discrimination in Gun Sales

Michigan public accommodations law bans discrimination based on age by businesses open to the public, including retailers.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

In Fulton v. Dick's Sporting Goods, Inc., filed yesterday, an 18-year-old plaintiff is suing over Dick's refusing—based on his age—to sell him a rifle. Michigan law categorically prohibits age discrimination except where allowed by other provisions (which would include laws banning alcohol sales to under-21-year-olds, the federal law banning handgun sales by licensed gun dealers to under-21-year-olds, and the like):

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 or public service [which includes retailers -EV] because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status.

(b) Print, circulate, post, mail, or otherwise cause to be published a statement, advertisement, notice, or sign which indicates that the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or public service will be refused, withheld from, or denied an individual because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status, or that an individual's patronage of or presence at a place of public accommodation is objectionable, unwelcome, unacceptable, or undesirable because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status.

Plaintiff is seeking damages, injunctions, costs, and attorney fees. (Under the Michigan statute, sec. 37.2802, a court is authorized but not required to award costs and attorney fees to prevailing plaintiffs.) I don't know of any provision in Michigan law that "permit[s]" refusing to sell rifles or shotguns to 18-to-20-year-olds, so this seems like a winning claim, like the Oregon lawsuit against Dick's and Walmart that I blogged about yesterday.

My question: Doesn't Dick Sporting Goods have a legal department? I'd think a company with stores nationwide would realize that age discrimination might be illegal in some states, would quickly review what those states might be, and would then simply set up a policy that excludes them. True, the companies are presumably trying to make a public statement with their no-gun-sales-to-under-21-year-olds policy; but that statement shouldn't be much diluted by an exception for some states when the explanation for the exception is that they have to comply with the law. And now the news is shifting to "Dick's Sporting Goods being sued for illegal discrimination" instead of "Dick's Sporting Goods is taking a stand to try to prevent gun crime," which was presumably Dick's goal.

Nor are these some sorts of obscure laws that would be a surprise even to company lawyers. Perhaps some city and county ordinances might be, though I take it that retailers are aware that localities sometimes have special rules; but state antidiscrimination laws, including ones that reach far beyond federal law, are well-known, and the fact that different states have different rules is, too. It shouldn't be a surprise that, even if many states don't ban age discrimination in retail sales, a substantial minority of states does. And nationwide bricks-and-mortar retailers must have learned over the decades that they need to think about laws being different in different states.

Now perhaps I'm expecting too much—perhaps it's just that mistakes happen in business, and the failure to properly vet the policy is one of them. Or perhaps this wasn't a mistake, and Dick's deliberately thought that a blanket policy, even if it's illegal in some states, would get it much more public relations punch than a policy that excepted some states. Or perhaps the Dick's management has such a firm moral opposition to sales of rifles and shotguns to 18-to-20-year-olds that it doesn't mind a few lawsuits (though I suspect that, while some corporate managers are militantly opposed to selling guns, few would be fine with selling guns to 21-year-olds, but be so firmly opposed to selling to 20-year-olds that they'd deliberately violate the law as a result). In any case, this failure to take into account state antidiscrimination laws seemed like an odd business decision.


NEXT: Trump's Tariffs Will Hurt America's Automobile Industry, Including Workers Who Build Cars

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “My question: Doesn’t Dick Sporting Goods have a legal department?”

    If they do, it’s apparently not a very good one. When I read the post last week about this problem, I had expected that we would see exceptions to the rules to prevent any problems.

    Then, I expected to see exceptions issued after the Oregon lawsuits were filed.

    Now I’m not sure what to expect.

    1. Quiet consent judgments since the gun grabbers attention is now elsewhere?

    2. My very first thought when I heard about the new Dick’s policy was “Isn’t that illegal age discrimination in some states?”

      It’s shocking that a huge corporation with in-house lawyers wouldn’t have been all over this from the start. And, I think if this was a deliberate policy (with full knowledge of the laws) in those states banning this practice, that Dick’s would be exposing itself to punitive damages for flagrantly disregarding the law.

      If Dick’s has a strong corporate policy against selling rifles to 18-20 years, but there is a law forbidding them from targeting that age group, its proper response should to be to not sell rifles to any age group in that state. Flagrantly flouting the law is never a good option.

      1. “If Dick’s has a strong corporate policy against selling rifles to 18-20 years, but there is a law forbidding them from targeting that age group, its proper response should to be to not sell rifles to any age group in that state. Flagrantly flouting the law is never a good option.”

        This. If they want to virtue-signal that hard, then don’t sell long guns at all.

        1. >> If they want to virtue-signal that hard

          It’s interesting that we now have this handy term we can deploy whenever we want to cast a negative light onto someone else’s virtue. And it’s different from terms like “scold” that imply that the person is actively telling other people they’re bad if they have different values from themselves. “Virtue-signal” is innovative in that it offers the user a way to disparage a person who’s just quietly trying to do what they think is right. I’m not at all shocked that it’s in such heavy rotation in The Gun Debate, which is basically a bunch of creepy dudes and the commercial interests they hand their money to vs. everybody else. No wonder the former finds this language useful. But you know, the rest of us could find it useful as well since those who use the term “virtue-signal” are signaling that they don’t have any.

          1. Except they AREN’T doing what they think is right. They couldn’t care less about what is right. They are doing things to look good to the liberals who control society.

            1. Liberals control society because conservatives are substandard.

              1. More like because liberals are willing to play dirty, whereas conservatives are not.

                1. Wow! Were you able to type that one with a straight face?

              2. Fuck off, slaver.

              3. And you finally admit that it is about control of society with you regressives.

                As already said in this thread, fuck off, slaved.

            2. ActuallyBelievesHeHasMind- ReadingPowersRightWingPatriot,

              Are you so deluded you think your conception of morality is the only one that could be held earnestly? Your two sentence comment implies you have no evidence to back up your beliefs, and implies that you are dangerously deluded. I don’t doubt you are honest in your beliefs about what is ‘right’, but I see no evidence that you are capable of considering your position rationally or with empathy for fellow humans.

              What evidence do you have that liberals control society?
              US politics are dominated by centrist politicians. Democrats, including Obama and Hillary are extremely centrist. Trump is a wild card who lacks a consistent political ideology, but you can’t argue that he is a liberal, and he is the current president, a position that has been called the most powerful in the world.

              And that you believe conservatives are not willing to play dirty. This is ridiculous. Nixon went out of his way to play dirty. conservative pastors are frequently jailed for scamming their flocks, then return to do the same again. Do you have any examples of ‘clean’ right wing politicians who have gone up against a rival to the left who played/plays ‘dirty’.

              Its like you just say things you wish were true, or would be convenient to your idiosyncratic world view, without any ability to gauge the truth value of the statement or to back it up with any facts. Pitiful.

          2. Dick’s issued a big press release that it posted all over social media. That’s not “quietly trying to do what they think is right.” It was definitely advocacy by Dick’s (as it admitted itself).

          3. I think you’re overlooking the key components of “virtue signaling” that give it its negative connotation:

            (1) I wouldn’t characterize it as “quietly trying to do what they think is right.” To the contrary, the “signaling” aspect disparages the attempt to bring attention to one’s own views. Much of the criticism is due to the “look at me” self-aggrandizement.

            (2) A second component of virtue-signaling is the relative emptiness of the gesture. Here, the rationale was (paraphrasing): “If Dick’s really cared, it would stop selling guns altogether?not just to 18-21 year olds.”

            Instead, they took a mostly meaningless half-measure, that won’t have any actual impact on 18-21 year olds obtaining long guns, and issued a self-fellating announcement to show that they are definitely “woke.”

            1. Get woke, go broke.

            2. “If Dick’s really cared, it would stop selling guns altogether?not just to 18-21 year olds.”

              They’re not going to sacrifice 8% of their business.

              1. Agreed?that’s part of why it’s virtue-signaling. They flashed their progressive bona fides by making a mostly meaningless half-measure.

            3. What about this isn’t something that shouldn’t afford some scolding and derision? Yes, it has a negative connotation. If what you think is right removes rights, illegally in this case based on the suit, and that the signal actually performs zero benefit to society except in the least possible scenario, which are all mostly hypothetical, then they deserve that mocking and excoriation.

          4. “creepy dudes”

            I think a dude who disparages Americans asserting a Constitutional right is pretty creepy.

            1. I’m one of those “creepy dudes.” You know the type: married, female, over 50, stable job, pays bills on time and believes in common sense and personal responsibility.

              1. *correction! I am one of the “creepy dudes” mentioned by JohnnyS in the Gun Debate comment above. I support the Constitution as written…not the watered down version some people are trying to sell these days.

              2. Pardon me, but I didn’t see or hear any dem tears over the 50+million babies Planned Parenthood killed, but just try shooting 30K people and dems will run right out demanding Our Constitutional rights be taken away.

                1. High capacity abortion clinics are still in vogue.

                  1. High capacity, rapid fire abortions.

          5. “Virtue-signal” is innovative in that it offers the user a way to disparage a person who’s just quietly trying to do what they think is right.

            If it’s a signal, it doesn’t have much to do with being quite. The term has use when it describes people who make noise about something without going to any lengths to affect themselves. I don’t think it makes sense in this case. OTOH, when people on the left complain about Republican politicians that publicly deplore Trump’s actions but then don’t vote against him on other issues, they’re making a complaint that the Republicans are just “virtue signaling,” whether they use that term or not. (Also, whether it’s accurate or not; Senatorial objections have changed Trump policy, but generally before it’s gotten to a vote because the leadership wouldn’t let something go a vote if it’s going to fail. That’s why nominees that would have failed withdraw first.)

          6. ” “Virtue-signal” is innovative in that it offers the user a way to disparage a person who’s just quietly trying to do what they think is right.”

            Except Dicks isn’t quietly doing anything. They, like most Facebook and Twitter users, the platforms to announce their positions for the approval of others. Hence, it’s virtue signaling.

            Nothing quiet about it. They issued a press release!

          7. Exactly. Just like those bakers and renters who do their ‘virtue-signaling’ by discriminating against gay people. Or by trash talking the ‘welfare moochers’, even the ones who are employed and busting hump.

        2. Well, they already don’t sell handguns, so you mean you don’t think they should sell guns at all.

    3. More likely, whoever made the decision was having a severe bout of “virtue signaling” and decided to ride the public relations wave while the issue was fresh. There likely was no legal review – or if there was, it was likely disregarded by the soon-to-be-former CEO/board members. Such is the nature of libtards – or in shooting terms:


  2. Apparently, “whatever is not forbidden is compulsory.”

  3. It’s likely that Dick’s sought to get the PR bump for ending under 21 sales before a legal review was done.

    Anybody who has ever worked in a large bureaucratic organization knows that the legal department is a black box where inputs go in and who knows when you get an output.

    1. “PR bump”

      Crater might be more accurate.

      1. On the plus side, it will open up some big box storefronts for other less woke businesses after Dick’s closes.

    2. Very accurate on both. The PR value probably offsets the settlement expense(s) until they quietly go back to the way things used to be done. And the very utterance of “we should probably ask Legal to review this” means deals will probably die a slow bureaucratic death.

      1. Don’t forget they already did a little backsliding on AR sales years ago.

        1. Actually, other than few Dick’s stores with large hunting/shooting departments, most Dick’s stores stopped stocking ARs.

          But this is a decision to stop selling any guns to 18 to 20 year olds, when the federal Gun Control Act allows 18 to 20 year olds to buy rifles and shotguns but not concealable firearms (mainly handguns but also NFA firearms).

    3. Usually there is someone on the decision committee who either has experience or is clever enough to google up an answer while waiting for legal.

      We try to anticipate the legal answer, even while we realize it might be completely different in the end. Err on the side of caution.

    4. I strongly doubt that Dick’s did this for a PR bump. In fact, taking a stand on a divisive issue like this (particularly where your customer base is more likely to be pro-gun than anti-gun) will usually result in negative PR and hurt sales.

      Knowing how the gun control crowd works, it is much, much more likely that Dick’s caved to a targeted peer-pressure campaign against them. In an effort to quickly appease these gun control groups, the CEO made a hair-trigger decision without actually looking into the legal repercussions. If you look at the language used in Dick’s press release, its apparent that the press release was drafted by (or at least with assistance from) gun control groups. The terms and phrases used are right out of a gun control p.r. policy paper.

      1. “the CEO made a hair-trigger decision”

        That seems likely to me as well — but I’ve become inured to heads of large organizations making hair-trigger decisions without much thought over the past 411 days.

      2. IIRC Dick’s stopped selling the semi-auto ARs a few years ago to appease somebody. Cabelas and the LGS thanks them for the business.

      3. Po-TAY-to.

        Whether you’re caving to negative pressure, or grabbing for positive headlines, the issue either way is PR.

        So Dick’s will serve as an example of what happens when you abandon core principles in the face of a little criticism – or in an attempt to purchase a squirt of adulation.

      4. But was it an automatic fire hair trigger?

    5. “It’s likely that Dick’s sought to get the PR bump”

      So they wanted to bump up their stock price?

      1. I see what you did there. 😉

      2. OMG! A STOCK BUMP!??

        Weren’t those banned?

        We’re all gonna DIE!!!

  4. In-house lawyers don’t evaluate what the law is; they evaluate what the risk the law will operate against their client and give an opinion on that exposure.

    Either they were never consulted (not likely, IMO), made a bad evaluation, or those they gave their opinion to made a bad bet.
    But I don’t find it unreasonable that the business smarties decided the public goodwill of the new age requirement was a greater benefit than the risk it entailed.

    1. “I don’t know of any provision in Michigan law that “permit[s]” refusing to sell rifles or shotguns to 18-to-20-year-olds, so this seems like a winning claim…”

      *laughs in activist court*

      1. I meant this to go to the main comment thread….not a reply specifically to you Sarc…but it still works.

    2. (not likely, IMO)

      I think the contrary, no time for consultation when virtue signaling is afoot.

      More likely the CEO big footed the policy without talking to anyone.

      1. Virtue signaling is only in service of perceived profits – that’s why you see the split between pro-Trump manufacturing companies and anti-Trump consumer companies.

        Certainly any partisan excitement would not prevent risk-averse businesses from getting legal signoff. Lawyers have done a great job convincing themselves and others that they need to look at dang near everything.

    3. More often they tell you what the law is and accept zero risk unless directly overruled by the CEO.

      1. I’ll admit, that could very well be the case for larger businesses; I have no experience.

        If that is the case, what do you think happened here for such a high-risk move to be made?

        1. >for such a high-risk move

          But that’s the thing, it’s NOT a high-risk move. Worst case scenario for Dick’s is that the state court rules that they’re not allowed to deny the purchase, and perhaps orders Dick’s to pay the guy’s modest legal fees. In which case Dick’s changes its store policy and corporate office cuts the guy a check for five grand or whatever. Big deal.

          1. However, a court ruling that, in its quest to deprive young men and women from the tools to protect themselves, feed themselves, pursue their hobbies, and/or pursue their sports interests, Dick’s broke the law raises the risk of a boycott being formed. Such a boycott would extend far beyond the firearms department and could be catastrophic.

            Although I’m not a hunter and do not live in an area where hunting is very popular, I would imagine in areas where it is and young folks are out hunting when they are 14 years old, there might be quite a bit of ire among good customers about Dick’s refusing to sell a a legal gun to those hunters because they are under 21. Dick’s is walking a dangerous tightrope here — they should look up the history of Smith & Wesson.

            1. I wonder how many people still refuse to buy a S&W due to the Hillary hole or a Ruger due to founder Bill’s comments? Some for sure but I would be surprised if it is more than just a few.
              In my neck of the woods (datum point of one) there are several LGSs that have a better selection than Dicks, a Cabelas, and two one-ofs that have a greater selection than Cabelas. At least Dicks has more than Walmart.

            2. I generally agree that this was a poor choice and the resulting boycott will have an impact. And as an LGBT American who has benefited from state non-discrimination laws, I believe the young man should win the lawsuit.

              Having said that, you overstate this to the point that I think you may not know even the basic facts of the case. Dicks won’t sell assault rifles to people under 21. That 18 year old young man, or his friends, could buy any other kind of long gun to ” protect themselves, feed themselves, pursue their hobbies, and/or pursue their sports interests.” They can buy ammo and anything else they like except an AR-15 and similar. I don’t think we need to blow this out of proportion to make the point that not selling a specific item because of the age of the shopper is age discrimination.

              1. According to the document linked at the beginning of the OP:

                “10. On March 5, 2018 Plaintiff entered the Troy, Michigan location of Dick’s and
                attempted to purchase a long arm, specifically a shotgun.
                11. Defendant’s employees refused to sell a firearm to Plaintiff, citing a new corporate
                policy denying the sale of firearms to anyone under twenty-one (21) years of age.
                Said denial was videorecorded
                12. Defendant has widely advertised it will no longer sell firearms to anyone under
                twenty-one (21) years of age and has placed various signs throughout the Troy
                location indicating same.”

                Now that’s the plaintiff’s version of things; perhaps the facts are instead as you state them. But it would seem odd to falsely state facts so easily disproved.

                (of course, as I understand it, the case doesn’t depend on what he was trying to buy; it could have been a pack of gum)

              2. Under the stated Dick’s policy, they won’t sell any firearms to 18 to 20 year olds.

                Their new policy is to restrict guns sales to 21 or older, same as the federal restriction on handguns..

                Don’t conflate this rule with their stated ban on selling ARs some years ago.

                The few Dick’s stores that continued to stock ARs will stop because of Nickolaus Cruz.

                All Dick’s stores will refuse to sell any gun to 18, 19, 20 year olds because of Nickolaus Cruz.

                Discrimination and punitive scapegoating, in my not so humble opinion.

  5. Dick’s lawyers aren’t very good, but they’re all provided with a complementary cup, so to some degree they’re protected.

    1. Cup labeled “Dicks” so they know who gave it to them and where to place it over.

  6. Where are the state governments themselves?

    Oregon is especially eager to challenge every sneeze of the Trump administration.

    I expect them to intervene in the suit highlighted yesterday. Right?

    1. For the same reason the cake shops are being sued by individuals – this is a private right of action.

      If you keep crying wolf about double standards, soon no one will believe you.

      1. The most prominent cake shop case was in fact a government administrative proceeding. There was a fine assessed.

        I think the New Mexico photographer case was also a government administrative proceeding

        1. “While another bakery provided a cake to the couple, Craig and Mullins filed a complaint to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission under the state’s public accommodations law, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating against their customers on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation”

          “…Ms. Willock found another photographer, but nevertheless filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission”

          Administrative adjudication is a lot more like Article III adjudication than the sua sponte state action you sarcastically asked for.

          1. “intervene in the suit ”

            A member of the protected class has already invoked jurisdiction. Easy peasy to ask to intervene.

      2. Yes, but the States that sued to stop enforcement of the travel ban used the argument that if the challenged act harms the citizens of the State it therefore harms the State.

        1. Including Oregon.

  7. I like this approach. I keep waiting for the Walmart shoe to drop, along with Kroger.

    1. Kroger? I had seen that in the news, but didn’t understand it. Kroger sells guns? The grocery store?

      1. Yeah, didn’t you hear that Kroger puts toy AR-15’s into its store-brand cereal boxes?

      2. Kroger has a Wal-Mart type subsidiary. That sub sells guns.

        1. Ah, that would explain it.

          I mean, they just opened a new expanded store in my city, and it’s nice – new sushi counter where they make it fresh in store instead of the old cooler – but a gun rack would have been an even better addition. 🙂

      3. At least in some markets Kroger at one point diversified into the rest of retail, don’t follow them in detail today. In Oregon/Pacific Northwest they bought Fred Meyer years ago (I largely remember the Freddy Kroger jokes about it) which was a generic regional department store with some grocery superstores.

  8. “Now perhaps I’m expecting too much — perhaps it’s just that mistakes happen in business, and the failure to properly vet the policy is one of them. ”

    My experience is that companies that are focused on politics and not the bottom line are poorly managed and invariably are headed to the trash heap of history. Dicks is losing tremendous ground to Amazon. Their stock is down 30% over the last 3 years (when the market is up 30%, so that’s 60% under-performance). Their singular obsessive focus should be on competing with Amazon and raising sales, not getting involved in politics. Especially since they sell outdoors products. Companies that get involved in politics invariably piss off at least 1/2 the country. This may get a lot of fist bumps in liberal urban Wall St board rooms, but the liberals “pleased” by this policy are still going to buy from Amazon. Progressives and urban liberals simply are not customers of Dicks.

    Mistakes happen in business, and companies go out of business as a result. Dicks management has been making them for a while, and this is just one more bad decision in a history of bad management.

    Condensed version: Not terribly surprised this decision was poorly vetted, it sounds like par for Dicks management.

    1. “Companies that get involved in politics invariably piss off at least 1/2 the country.”-> and you cannot survive very long as a business pissing off 1/2 your customers.

    2. “Progressives and urban liberals simply are not customers of Dicks.”

      I wouldn’t go that far. Plenty of progressives and urban liberals buy expensive shoes and cute running outfits.

      1. I live in Portland. I’m surrounded by Progressives and urban liberals.

        Dick’s has five stores in the metro area, and they don’t seem to be aimed at some other market than e.g. “local sports equipment consumers”.

        Seems like both sets do, in fact, shop at Dick’s.

      2. They don’t have five “stores.” They have five showrooms, where you go in, look a the overpriced merch then buy from Amazon.

        People who really want to overpay for merch dont go to Dicks, they shop at REI.

        1. And REI is doing the same moral grandstanding by not ordering Camelbak* stuff. You can buy Camelbak at a bunch of other places, so it’s an empty gesture.

          *Camelbak’s parent company also owns Savage Arms.

          1. REI does not sell Camelbak to prevent accutriggering its sensitive progressive customer base.

    3. So now Amazon isn’t political?

      Hard to keep up with which companies are the current bad guys persecuting conservatives.

    4. Actually, gun sales all have to go through a local FFL holder, so guns are the one area Dicks doesn’t have to compete with Amazon, and here they go and deliberately screw that up.

    5. > Their stock is down 30% over the last 3 years (when the market is up 30%, so that’s 60% under-performance).

      If the market were up 50% and they were down 50%, would that be 100% underperformance?

      Since the market is up 30% and they are down 30%, it’s 46% underperformance (.7 / 1.3 = 0.53846153846)

      1. If I invested $100 in Dicks and $100 in the market, I’d have $130 in market fund and $70 in Dicks. Strictly speaking, I would say 1.3/.7 – 1 = 85%, since my Dicks position would have to go up 85% to be worth the market portfolio.

        you are correct, I approximated it.

        The overall point though is that Dicks is poorly managed, its market performance is poor, and this is yet another bad decision.

  9. Perhaps they’ll fold quietly, rescind the policy where it’s illegal, and if anyone pesters them about it point at the laws and say “hey, we wanted to but the courts made us stop”?

    Maximum PR benefit for minimum cost, unless the backlash from people who like civil liberties (all of them, not just the bien pensant approved list) hurts them more.

    1. This exactly.

    2. That’s almost certainly what they will do, but there is no “ineffective assistance of counsel” defense in civil court. Every 18-21-year-old who was smart enough to scurry to their local Dick’s or Walmart between last week when the policy was announced and next week when it will be amended has an airtight case.

      I hope each and every one insists on being paid damages in the form of firearms instead of cash.

  10. I think your mistake is in assuming that management bothered to talk to their own legal department at all before making their announcement. And then having made it, my guess is that management was unwilling to back down even in the face of internal legal advice. Not a firm moral opposition as much as a refusal to admit they were wrong.

    Consider that Dick’s has been selling these for many years. If you really had a strong moral objection, why would you have hired on to the company in the first place? Occam’s Razor supports your hypothesis that this is a marketing ploy gone wrong and compounded by pigheadedness.

    1. Well, Dick’s definitely has put themselves into a tough spot. If they don’t adjust their policy for the few states that have applicable age discrimination laws in place, they will get sued to death. Every attorney in those states will be looking for 18-20 year olds to attempt to buy a rifle in Dick’s for the sole purpose of suing Dick’s. It will be a cottage industry in those states.

      But, if Dick’s does adjust their policy in those states, you’ll see some 18 year old post a picture on Facebook outside of Dick’s with his brand new rifle that he just bought. And he’ll rub it in Dick’s face and say, “Dick’s is full of sh*t about not selling guns to kids. I’m 18 and just bought this rifle from them!”

      1. Or perhaps Dick’s will arrange a change in state laws.

        Or perhaps Dick’s will stop selling guns (or certain guns).

  11. You don’t need to obey laws when you’re “on the right side of History”. Haven’t we learned that in the last 10 years? Law is anachronistic. It stands in the way of Progress. It’s on it’s way out as a concept, replaced for good by the will to power.

  12. As an in house counsel at a public company, here’s how I imagine the meeting went:

    VP Corporate Communications: We’ve been getting a lot of emails and bad publicity as result of our gun sales line.

    CEO: What’s our operating profit from this line?

    CFO: Eh, it’s some small amount buried within some larger segment.

    CEO: If I make some big announcement that we are changing our sales practices in some small way, will people get off our backs?

    VP Corporate Communications: Yes. The New York Times and a bunch of other papers and social media will love it and hold us up as a paragon of corporate virtue.

    CEO: That’s what I want. Now, what change should we make? How about prohibiting guns to people under 21?

    VP of the division that sells guns: Um, my bonus might be affect if the sales in my division are lower.

    CEO: Don’t worry, we’ll adjust your targets.

    General Counsel: Some states have age discrimination laws that would prohibit us from doing this.

    CEO: What’s the exposure?

    General Counsel: Some courts would probably side with us because they like our policy, however, some courts might enforce the law. In those courts, we might have to pay some damages and the court might enter an injunction prohibiting us from prohibiting us from enforcing this policy. It would probably drag out for a while. And of course at some point we could adjust our policy to take into account of the age discrimination laws where applicable.

    CEO: Seems like a plan.

    1. I have also been in-house at multiple organizations and logged in to say essentially the same thing.

      I’m not sure I agree with Eugene’s assertion that the story has or will become “Dick’s Sporting Goods being sued for illegal discrimination”. I think the people Dicks’ was trying to appeal to with this policy will see any decision against it as a sad and tragic blow against a good policy enacted for noble purposes. Dick’s knows that the ultimate legal result has no bearing on the good PR (at least within certain circles) they’ll get from this move.

      1. Former in-house counsel here. I agree with these two comments bigly.

        1. They couldn’t have just added “where permitted by law” to their announcement? Nobody reads the fine print anyway.

  13. My guess is that they knew this would be illegal in some jurisdictions but simply decided that the cost was worth the benefit. No different than companies/banks that commit torts/frauds and then decide that the profits are more than the liability.

    It is also, in principle, not much different from the way some prosecutors in some occasions handle offensive, but not illegal conduct: Arrest and indict them, and then when the judge throws the case out, whine about how “they wanted to protect the public, but the liberal/conservative justice system prohibited them from xxx.” Since there was an indictment, there is no recourse for the individual.

    Or even more fundamentally, some criminals: “I can live like a king for 15 years, but in exchange I will have to do 3 years in federal prison. I will take that deal.”

    In summary, I don’t think this mindset is all that unusual.

  14. Imagine if CVS or Walgreen’s had decided to not sell Plan B to anyone under 21…progressives would lose their collective (and collectivist) minds.

    1. Imagine how crazy I imagine the other side to be in a superficially similar parallel!

      [Just as silly hypothetical whattaboutism as when people ask about the right would react if Hillary had done all the stuff Trump did.
      No one knows exactly what Trump even did, much less how much worse the right would react in that counterfactual versus the more staid Hillary Presidency counterfactual!]

      1. Grow up.

      2. “Imagine how crazy I imagine the other side to be in a superficially similar parallel!”

        But we already have real life examples of progs objecting to pharmacist conscious laws.

        If the whole chain limited sales of birth control based on age, no prog reaction?

    2. Perhaps Dick’s could hirely as clerks solely persons who claim a religious objection to selling guns to customers younger than 21?

      1. So then their store manager would have to come to the front and ring up anyone buying guns or ammunition who is between 18 and 21? What a brilliant idea. Truly inspired. And then when the manager is too busy and tells the clerk to just go ahead and sell it, Dicks can defend against a religious discrimination lawsuit as well. Sheer genius.

      2. Is there a religion that supports no guns under the age of 21 but is otherwise ok with it?

  15. I could see Dick’s winning some district court cases despite these being obviously slam dunk cases if the case is decided by a liberal activist judge.

    Maybe now those states will get rid of age discrimination laws. But they will more likely make age discrimination based on gun purchases a carve out.

  16. I strongly suspect that Occam’s Razor applies here: management acted on this in haste without getting legal sign-off.

    But it’s also possible legal signed off on this, or at least noted that the legal answer is less clear than we’re assuming. While I’m not directly familiar with the Michigan law here, I am familiar with the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, which is the progenitor of many of these other state laws. Under the California law, it’s not accurate to say that the law “categorically” prohibits discrimination based on age or any of the other listed factors. Rather, “disparities in treatment and pricing that are reasonable do not violate the Unruh Act.” Chabner v. United of Omaha Life Ins. Co., 225 F.3d. 1042, 1050 (9th Cir. 2000). Reasonableness is, of course, a squishy concept, the kind of thing that is at least likely to require a trial. Dick’s might have an argument that its refusal to sell to 18-20 year olds is reasonable if, for example, such consumers are more likely to use the guns negligently and, therefore, potentially have Dick’s haled into a product liability case. So you could absolutely see an in-house lawyer saying, this thing could go either way, we can drag this out for years, etc.

  17. Everything about this article makes me sad.
    1) that a company operating in the private sphere is not allowed to discriminate (and sell to whomever it chooses, just like customers are allowed to buy from any company they wish without having to justify their choice)
    2) that it’s an accepted norm in society for a sporting goods store to have lawyers on its payroll, out of necessity
    3) that a store feels it needs to virtue signal to this degree in order to remain in business
    4) that there are such evil individuals among us who would shoot up schools (and nobody is focusing on them and how to punish them in order to deter future attacks, instead talking about guns, the police, corporate entities, and laws)

    1. #2 I don’t get what makes you sad about this? First individual stores do not have lawyers on payroll. Second, all corporations have lawyers on payroll, even if they never get sued and never sue anyone. There is a lot of legal work just in filing to incorporate and past that, most of the work done by corporate in-house lawyers is contract writing/negotiations.

      1. PS: And when they do get sued, most corporations retain outside counsel.

        1. Their in house lawyers will be corporate/contract law specialists, not tort lawyers.

      2. Don’t forget all the lawyers retained or employed to work with government regulation.

        1. SEC
        2. FTC
        3. IRS
        4. EEOC

  18. >> “though I suspect that, while some corporate managers are militantly opposed to selling guns…”

    I find it hard to believe that a natl sporting goods retailer like Dick’s, that’s always been big on outdoors equipment, would have any corp managers who were “militantly opposed to selling guns”. I could see that person being at Walmart or (the late) K-Mart or some other big “mart” that sells a little of everything and guns are merely a sidelight. But not at Dick’s. That would be a very ill-fitting corp mgr indeed. Which would be clear to anyone who lived in the Midwest where Dick’s is HQ’d. As opposed to say Southern California…

    >> “few would be fine with selling guns to 21-year-olds, but be so firmly opposed to selling to 20-year-olds”

    Not if they’d ever spent much time around 18yos they wouldn’t. I say 18yos rather than 20yos here because the big policy question being debated nationally at the moment which precipitated Dick’s move here isn’t just about 20yos vs 21yos. It’s about whether the age to own should be 18 or 21. To my knowledge nobody’s pushing any arguments for it to be set at 20, or 19, it’s just whether it should be 18 or 21. Dick’s is obviously leaning towards 21, and rather than the way EV frames it here, the fairer way to characterize this is as the choice of whether or not to sell guns to people as young as 18 since that’s the legal situation in the states which could theoretically challenge Dick’s newly announced policies.

    1. I’m not seeing your second point. Since Dick’s is flouting the law anyway, they could set their limit at 19 or 20 if they wanted to. They decided 21 was OK but 20 was not.

    2. Dick’s isn’t quite as “midwest” as Cabela’s or Bass Pro. I think of it as more of an east coast company.

      But, with respect to the age limit for purchasing guns, it does seem to be just an arbitrary number. Dick’s said it was raising the age in direct response to the recent school shooting. The shooter was 19, so it would have been less arbitrary for Dick’s to say that they were no longer going to sell guns to any person younger than 20.

      The thing about Cruz (the shooter) is that I think everyone would agree that he would have been just as dangerous and crazy at 21 as he was at 19. His age didn’t cause the massacre, any more than the color of his eyes. If 1 out of every 100,000,000 18-20 year old kids goes on a school shooting rampage, it seems very heavy handed to deprive all 18-20 year old kids of their rights. The odds of being killed by a shark in the ocean are multiple orders of magnitude greater, and yet we don’t ban all children from swimming in the ocean, even though such a law would be worth it according to Dick’s who said that the ban is worth it if it results in just one life being saved.

  19. They did it for the same reason Google is blatantly violating antidiscrimination laws, for the same reason that Colorado is enforcing non-discrimination laws against Christian bakers but not against leftist ones — because they think they will get away with it. And given the insanity of many recent (and not so recent) court decisions, there is a good chance they are right. Dick’s lawyers are smugly sniggering at your naivete….

    1. Theres plenty of legal ways to not sell people things though. Companies dont really need to go out of their way. Obviously dick thinks the good publicity this generates is worth more than whatever amount of their business that was selling guns to people under 21. And theyre the ones with the focus groups and sales data and an actual stake in the game, so they might be right. Their concerns are at least more immediate than mine.

  20. Many rental car companies refuse to rent cars to drivers aged 18 to 21, and they limit rentals to drivers under the age of 25. Surely those business distinctions are not actionable!

    1. I wondered about this also. I learned that most (not all) states have provisions in their age discrimination laws that specifically allow car rental companies to set their own minimum age requirements. In those states with no such provisions (e.g., NY, MI), rental cars must rent to 18yos.

  21. “My question: Doesn’t Dick Sporting Goods have a legal department?”

    My question is what makes you think the legal department was consulted?

  22. That’s an incompetent legal department. Plus, if they really want to make a statement, sell rifles but not semi-automatics. That’s perfectly legal in all states.

  23. Dick’s continues to act like their namesake

  24. Well, this shouldn’t be a problem in Florida soon. The State legislature just passed a bill that,among other things, raises the age to purchase a rifle to 21 (it was alread 21 for handguns). It is expected the governor, despite misgivings about arming teachers, will sign.

    1. The courts that have upheld the restriction on selling handguns to persons under 21 years old relied on the fact that these 18-20 year olds could still purchase a long gun to defend themselves with, so there wasn’t a total ban. It will be interesting how the courts handle a situation where 18-20 years olds are prohibiting from purchasing any guns whatsoever.

      1. Most of my area’s local gun shops and many big box stores with gun departments are better venues than Dick’s anyway.

  25. Wait a minute, if we cant discriminate based on age why arent 3 year olds eligible for the draft or able to buy booze? or consent to sex (although you can, of course, consent to being governed before you’re even born)? Age discrimination is so baked into society, if not human nature, that selectively is the only way it could be enforced at all. Maybe its time we stopped pretending that isnt a feature.

    1. Read the post next time.

  26. “Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Monday that the retailer will defend its new policy.”

    (from article entitled “Oregon man, 20, sues Dick’s, Walmart over new gun sale policies”)

    We shall see if they have a defense.

    1. I’m guessing their defense will ultimately be “won’t sonebody please think about the children?”

  27. Beginning with the 1968 Gun Control Act, 18 year olds and older could legally buy rifles and shotguns.

    So all 18-20 year olds should be punished for the acts of Nikolas Cruz?

    And Democrats, progressives, and Dicks are proud of that decision?

    18-20 year olds vote.

    18-20 year olds work and spend money.

    They should remember who distrusts them and treats them with suspicion when it come time to vote and spend their incomes.

  28. Get woke, go BROKE.

  29. You mean social justice doesn’t automatically and always trump actual justice?

  30. If Florida goes ahead with passing its law to raise the required age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21, does that cause a Second Amendment problem?

  31. I think the issue is more basic than this. Discrimination is bad. Discrimination laws protects good people from bad people. Because they are good people and on the side of right, obviously discrimination laws protect them and can’t possibly apply to them. There are plenty of court cases suggesting that it is what judges think is right, not what some old-fogie statutory text says, that controls what is and isn’t discrimination.

    The use of guns by minors is obviously an evil similar in nature to the others that the Michigan discrimination law protectsfrom. It follows that courts have a right to extend these laws. And given that this is the way interpretation is done these days, it shouldn’t be that difficult to search through their penumbras and eminations. By staring at and perhaps smoking the white space between the ink marks, it won’t be difficult to find that these laws were “really” intended to protect against that evil as well. Why should a mere textual inconsistency matter when it’s truth and justice that’s at stake and it’s obvious in which direction truth and justice lie?

  32. Just to reiterate… Dicks down 5% today on poor same store sales.

    Bad management, bad decisions, poor investment. When sales are already floundering it totally makes sense to piss off half the country too.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.