Guns

Walmart Illegally Discriminated Against 18-to-20-Year-Old Gun Buyer, Oregon Antidiscrimination Agency Alleges

Oregon is one of a handful states that bans age discrimination against 18-to-20-year-olds by places of public accommodation.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |


The official charge was filed last week by the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries against Walmart, based on a complaint by Hannah Brumbles; a full hearing is scheduled for Nov. 14; the Oregonian (Ted Sickinger) has more.

As I wrote in March, 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 specially treats alcohol and marijuana sellers, 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.

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.

But the Oregon Legislature seems to have resolved those arguments in favor of banning such discrimination. Given that, I don't see any legal basis for Walmart's refusal to sell a rifle to Hannah Brumbles because she was 18 (which is what the BOLI complaint alleges).