NSSF: Retailers’ “No Gun Sales Under 21” Policy A Legal Risk

First there was Oregon, where 20-year-old Tyler Watson filed suit against Walmart and Dick’s for refusing to sell him a rifle. That practice would appear to violate the state’s public accommodation law. Now a Michigan teen is taking a swing at Dick’s, too.

A high school senior in Battle Creek, 18-year-old Triston Fulton visited the Dick’s store in Oakland Mall in Troy to buy a rifle but when he showed his ID, he wasn’t even allowed to look at a rifle.  A Dick’s worker told him that was the policy.

Apparently neither Dick’s or Walmart considered the age discrimination angle of their new polices before trumpeting them to the world in an attempt to mollify anti-gunners and announce how woke they now are in the wake of the Parkland massacre.

But as UCLA professor Eugene Volokh wonders,

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.

Why let little details like prevailing laws get in the way of conspicuous corporate virtue signaling?

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm industry’s trade association, sent out an email blast letting its members know that there are nine states plus the District of Columbia with public accommodation laws that could present a problem for any gun seller planning to impose an arbitrary 21-and-up gun sales policy.

In the wake of the Parkland, Florida, tragedy, a few federally licensed firearms retailers (FFLs) have adopted a corporate policy to refuse to sell certain products, e.g. long guns, modern sporting rifles, standard-sized magazines and ammunition, to otherwise eligible adult customers aged 18 to 20.

NSSF respects the right of individual businesses to make their own decisions about what is appropriate for their business. However, in making the decision to refuse to sell to consumers based solely on their age, FFLs need to be aware that such a policy may violate state or local laws barring age discrimination and potentially subject them to civil lawsuits or civil enforcement actions.

For more information about what states have laws against age discrimination, see our fact sheet here.

Of course, any age discrimination suits in these states would be rendered moot if the states change their laws to prohibit sales to individuals under 21 as Florida appears about to do. Unfortunately for Mr. Watson, Oregon probably won’t be far behind.


  1. avatar ARJAY says:

    I thought that AGE discrimination was covered (prevented) by the U. S. Constitution!!

    So THAT would make AGE discrimination ILLEGAL in EVERY state!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. avatar Alexander says:

      The US Constitution has nothing in it addressing age discrimination. And the Constitution only addresses Federal responsibilities. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on age. Unless a bonafide reason can be demonstrated. With the liberal courts doing whatever the hell they want to do, that reason does not have to be reasonable.

    2. avatar raptor jesus says:

      Age discrimination is a quasi-suspect class. The equal protection clause requires courts to review such instances with intermediate scrutiny.

      This means the law has to have an exceedingly persuasive justification and apply to real, fact-based, or biological differences.

      Disclaimer – nothing I just said is legal advice and we do not have an attorney-client relationship.

    3. avatar CarlWinslo says:

      Under federal law you have to be over 40 to be a victim of age discrimination.

    4. avatar little horn says:

      thats up to the state to consider it a protected class.

    5. avatar Hannibal says:

      Why do people spend the time to type out, in capital letters, a bold statement about what they thought was in the Constitution instead of just reading it? It’s not long. It’s online, you can do a keyword search.

      1. avatar Rick says:

        Because FEELZ

  2. avatar CueBaller says:

    These lawsuits will likely be handled the same way Illinois handles cases where an 18-20 year old can’t get their parents’ consent for a FOID card, so they sue the state over bullshit age/parental consent requirement.

    Each and every time, the case is delayed long enough that the person ultimately turns 21… now they can legally get a FOID card… the state requests the suit be dismissed… granted.

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    1. avatar Felix says:

      Supposedly these lawsuits are for damages, not action, and damages don’t go moot.

  3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    I’m 99.8% sure that I’m giving Florida lawmakers way too much credit here, but the thought crossed my mind that perhaps they passed this age restriction knowing the law will be challenged in court. If the court strikes down this part of the law it will set a precedent. If it’s a violation of your 2A rights to be denied the right to buy a hun ting rif le, how would it not be a violation to be denied your right to possess a weapon suitable for self defense? In the long run I could see this ultimately ending in striking down the federal age restriction on purchasing handguns.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      The problem with the Florida debacle is, if they they get the under-21 sale part struck down, the rest of that turd law stays.

      Or is it an all-or-nothing thing?

      I’m kinda pissed. My rep Kelli Stargel voted for that crap sandwich, and she was until last night good on gun rights…

    2. avatar neiowa says:

      I agree. Professional political critters are often more than willing to sell out for a short term objective when they expect to receive cover longer term. The silly 21 for handguns has no logical basis for existence when age for long guns is 18. Either and adult at 18 or not (see also beer and cigs).

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        I agree on the booze and cigs, but there’s not an amendment in the Bill of Rights that says your right to drink and smoke ‘shall not be infringed’.

        Although… one could infer from the 21st Amendment repealing the prohibition of intoxicating beverages that you have a right to drink, and that the 26th Amendment establishes the age of adulthood as 18 since voting is the quintessential right of a citizen. Therefore banning the consumption of alcohol by adults (18-20 years old) is unconstitutional.

        1. avatar B-Rad says:

          Cigarettes are a nonsequitur, both alcohol and firearms are specifically declared rights in the constitution.

    3. avatar Stereodude says:

      The judiciary is full of leftists who will rule based on feelings and opinions instead of law and facts. Counting on them to save your basic is not smart. Everyone thought McCain-Feingold would get struck down by the courts and thought it was relatively harmless to pass as a result. However, the first round of cases upheld nearly all of it.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        This is the real shortcoming of our system. When the progressives (communists) infiltrated the courts they circumvented the Constitution. Ultimately our freedom can only be maintained by vigilance, not the words on an old piece of parchment.

  4. avatar Geoff PR says:

    From my time years back behind the gun counter, I needed no reason at all to refuse a sale if I was uncomfortable with the customer.

    However, I could not (nor did I ever) refuse a sale because of someone’s ethnicity, for example.

    It seems to me the retailers *might* be safe to not make the sale, as long as they did not mention age when refusing…

    1. avatar J.D.Fowlerton says:

      I’d think they’d still run into a problem if it came out that all the people they refuse to sell to have a single trait in common and that trait was anything other than failing in NICS.

    2. avatar Felix says:

      No, the state laws specifically, explicitly, say no age discrimination except in a very few cases (alcohol, tobacco).

      Federal age-discrimination laws are specifically for 40+, not all ages.

    3. avatar Hannibal says:

      Maybe but these retailers are making it their policies. They’re big-box stores, it’s all written down and there’s no getting around it.

  5. avatar Ed Schrade says:

    During the Clinton administration I turned in a legitimate age discrimination complaint and the answer from them was that a white person cannot claim discrimination.

    1. avatar B-Rad says:

      What were the circumstances? You age, employment related?

    2. avatar Hannibal says:


  6. avatar When binders collide says:

    Blacks and hispanics have more % of 18-20 year olds than whites. The under 21 rule discriminates against racial minorities. Same old democratic party.

  7. avatar Aaron M. Walker says:

    Well, maybe some senior citizens shouldn’t be “allowed” to purchase firearms, dangerous tools, self defense weapons, accelerants, Fire Starting devices or matches, kitchen flatware–such as kitchen knives/large chef’s knives/ meat cleavers, etc….Maybe restrict ages starting at 60 years and up…☝ Let’s see if the AARP will defend old folks!?! (Because this whole disarmament nonsense is just bullshit to collapse our Bill of Rights! A coupe against the American citizery !)

    1. avatar B-Rad says:

      Drive a car, got rear ended yesterday by an 84 year old lady. She was very nice, but still blew a stop sign without braking and had no idea what was going on.

  8. avatar Think! says:

    Think of all the youngsters you know.. would you trust one of them with a BB gun? My take on all this is that the age of legal gun ownership should be raised to 25, because most youngsters in the USA are idiots.

    1. avatar Euronam says:

      There’s this thing called a right. I’m a 19 year old gun owner and have owned a firearm (i plan on adding more soon) since I was 16. I’m not an Idiot; although I jokingly call myself one. If we raise the gun age to 25, let’s rase enlistment age, voting age, driving age, smoking age and drinking age… or how about we just don’t give anyone their rights until they’re 30.

    2. avatar BigDaveinVT says:

      My son’s not an idiot; I’ve trusted him with rim fire, center fire, “BB” and pellet firearms since he was 12. I made sure he, as well as every other member of the family, understood how to properly handle a firearm and the ramifications of misuse or carelessness. He also learned how to maintain them because I wasn’t going to do it for him. Sure there are a lot of folks I wouldn’t trust with firearms (some older than 21) but “most youngsters” is an unfair typification.

      Point is anyone can become a safe firearms user with proper introduction and instruction – THAT’s one area where this country’s been failing.

      It wasn’t too long ago in our nation’s history where these 18-20 year olds were already a third of their way through their natural life, working full time and raising families of their own. (https://www.infoplease.com/life-expectancy-birth-race-and-sex-1930-2010)

    3. avatar John in Ohio says:

      “Think of all the youngsters you know.. would you trust one of them with a BB gun?”

      There are people of all ages that I wouldn’t trust with a BB gun or even a dull fork. However, they have an unalienable individual right to keep and bear arms and posses property so it would be immoral and unwise of me to trespass upon their liberty.

    4. avatar Hannibal says:

      Okay, if young folks are that dumb and flighty let’s also raise the legal age to vote to 25. If you can’t rent a car or own a gun you shouldn’t be influencing our democracy either.

      Watch what magically happens to the parties…

  9. avatar Mark says:

    If Florida passes a law banning the sale of any firearm to those under 21 wont that open them up to a court challenge on Constitutional grounds? They would be in essence banning Second Amendment rights to adults aged 18 through 20.

    1. avatar Matt says:

      I expect a constitutional challenge to raising the age of long guns to 21. They are outlawing the purchasing of ANY firearm to an adult (18-20). If you can’t buy from an FFL you therefore cannot excerices your second amendment right.

      Remember, the left wants EVERY guns sale to go through and FFL/background check. So if they ever pass universal background checks, 18-20 year olds will be effectively denied any access to the 2nd Amendment.

      When it was just handguns at 21, the left could argue that 18-20 years still had constitutional access to firearms (long guns) but raising the age to 21 removes that access and therefore ought to be a civil rights violation. A civil rights violation you certainly won’t see the ACLU fighting against even if it was an African American 18-20 year old denied the right to buy a firearm.

      1. avatar B-Rad says:

        I don’t think you’d find many congressional republican specifically refute background checks, heck most were 100% for FixNICS.

    2. avatar B-Rad says:

      So wouldn’t that follow that handgun restrictions are also suspect. You can’t have it both ways, either it should be 18 based on the 26th amendment, or you limit the 26th’s meaning to just voting.

      That’s been the justification previously between, 18-21 beer vs wine/liquor, which was bumped nationally ~1985, I think Ohio and Louisiana were last.

      Since we’ve been fine with limiting an enumerated right to alcohol via age, and have been treating handguns with bias to 21, there seems little constitutional argument that long guns vs handguns are more different than beer and wine. Its sort of binary, either your against restrictions on anything for an adult over 18, or you’re not, if you’re not, then 21 it is, or 25, or 36.

      Every time you see a study about how great it is that X country restricts firearms, and see how few firearms deaths, those same countries all allow 16-18 years old to drink, with little fallout, so MADD and Bloomberg should get on the same page. Wait, are you saying statistics can be cooked to give any result, I’m shocked.

      1. avatar Matt says:

        Even with handguns being restricted to 21, they STILL HAD access to buy firearms, albeit just long guns. Moving the age for long guns NOW cuts off the right intirely. That’s the difference.

        And drinking alcohol isn’t a right.

        1. avatar RogueVal says:

          Well, the 18th and 21st amendments disagree with you, in most cases its legally viewed as both a right and a privilege, I’m an attorney in Medford and we do a bit of business with brewery’s, brew pubs, and bars, but generally constitutional law agrees that restrictions can be applied. And like pre 18th and post 21st amendment, certain restrictions have been applied, i.e. drinking age federally, locally; dry counties, sunday sales, blue laws.

          Nowhere in the Constitution does it define adult, the 26th amendment is specifically mentions voting only, no more or no less:

          Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

          Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

          Further, the age of majority is not defined in the Constitution, it varies depending on the subject, and states and localities also have further definition. Generally speaking, States have defined that as 18, but Nebraska and Alabama have defined it as 19. So what does that mean? It depends, Oregon’s age discrimination laws, specifically call out alcohol and marijuana as exceptions, but I’ve not looked up what Florida has, but I suspect if they had a discrimination law on the books, when they wrote this new prohibition, they’d probably have thrown in a statement about how its an exception to discrimination. This is the problem with a federal system, states have jurisdiction for some things, and you have to find a pile of money to appeal on supremacy powers, but then which federal laws do you want, there are slippery slopes on both sides of the mountain.

        2. avatar Matt says:

          Well perhaps this could be a potential case that ripe for the SCOTUS. IF they ever grant cert to a gun case.

        3. avatar B-Rad says:

          If that’s the case, what does the 21st amendment mean, or the 18th, if not conferring a right. It’s not that alcohol has a personal right to exist, its that a citizen has a right to own, make, sell, consume, it. You know, like a right to bear it.

          The question is does the “will not be abridged” part of the 2nd mean no regulation, well, that is currently settled law, until it isn’t. As 2 justices and Donald Trump have said, the constitution isn’t a suicide pact. Lots of people say that, but mean different things, but it is what it currently is, until it isn’t, then it is what it is, until it isn’t, then….

        4. avatar RogueVal says:

          Well, getting to the SCOTUS is a pretty complicated matter, and it can take years. There have been quite a few attempts federally to define what an adult means, and at what age, at least historically, especially in the interwar period of the 20’s and 30’s. It’s not particularly attractive to strict constructionists, because they tend to favor less federal, more state power, although today, strict constructionist doesn’t actually mean that anymore. Strictly speaking, pretty much any conservative/liberal judge today is an activist judge, because the prefix defines specific viewpoints that either mandate federal interference or ban it. Lets face it, Judicial appointments are as political as any other at this point, and they are politicians.

      2. avatar Ing says:

        Where are you getting this enumerated right to alcohol? There’s no such thing. https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendments/amendment-xxi

        1. avatar RogueVal says:


          Even the 18th amendment allowed possession and consumption as legal. So its an effective right, regulating a right does not make it a mere privilege, hence 99% of all judicial review is about section 2, not section 1.

          Further, there is nothing that says you have to be 18, 19, or 27 about either under the constitution, drinking, shooting, etc. There were lots of discussions in the 80’s about fighting the defacto federal age restrictions on alcohol via the DOT purse, but we know how that turned out.

          There is no specific definition of what Arms mean in the 2nd from a product perspective, NFA, etc, defines that, but Arms doesn’t definitively say canon, musket, there have been a bit of arguments about that, you may have heard about them.

  10. avatar Jross says:

    Under 21? Nope, sorry. Too young. You’re too immature/brain not fully developed/haven’t developed proper reasoning yet/whatever reason. But here, take this rifle and we will ship you off to another country to kill people.

    Oh cool, you’re over 21 now! Oh, you’re kind of messed up from all the killing we made you do? Sorry bro, we can’t trust you with a rifle.

    Yeah it sucks. We don’t want you to have a gun we just want to be able to tell you who to kill for us.

    1. avatar Randall says:


  11. avatar Vince says:

    Yesssssssss… Everyone should be doing it!!!!! Put it right back into the lap of socialist turds trying to strip 2a…. Put dicks out of business and boycott all businesses that cater to socialist democrat shitbags

  12. avatar ironicatbest says:

    Wall Mart and Dickless can do what they want but NSSF is bullshit, just for that I’m going out and way laying a bunch of deer and let em rot for the coyotes, mite even tear down a few stop signs. Traitor bastards. Fuck a hunting license, hit em where it hurts,

  13. avatar Ogre says:

    I wonder how large the black market for 18-20 year old gun buyers will be? Where something is banned or made too difficult/expensive to obtain legally, a black market will emerge (see Prohibition). Another question: If I’m an 18-20 year old person in Florida and want a .30-30 to go deer hunting with, but can’t buy it myself thanks to these peckerhead emotional lawmakers, could an older relative (or any older person) buy that rifle and just gift it to me (and I’ll pay you later)? Sounds like a work-around, and who would know… Or my dad or uncle just give/loan me a rifle until I’m 21? Or what if I just went to Georgia to buy the rifle I want?That is legal, too. And what about Florida’s 18-20 year olds that already own rifles (especially dreaded AR-15s or AKs)? Do they have to surrender them to Deputy Dawg?

    1. avatar Stereodude says:

      Beware of being punished for a straw purchase.

      1. avatar John in Ohio says:

        One of the pitfalls of POTG begging that government enforce existing infringements.

    2. avatar Raoul Duke says:

      You have to abide by the laws of your state when it comes to purchasing guns out of state.

      That means a 18-20 year old Floridian could not buy a gun outside his state, period.

      Unless possession is also illegal, then private sales would still be fine but even those can only happen between in-state residents.

  14. avatar hellofromillinois says:

    In terms of employment this is the federal law:
    “Age discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of his or her age.

    The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older. It does not protect workers under the age of 40, although some states have laws that protect younger workers from age discrimination. It is not illegal for an employer or other covered entity to favor an older worker over a younger one, even if both workers are age 40 or older.”

    Note that apparently you are allowed to discriminate against young people all you want.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      Yeah and it has nothing to do with the civil rights act or anything aside from employment law.

      That said, courts that are trying can do what they want. They somehow decided to take “sex” from the civil rights act, which had a very specific meaning (man or woman) make it apply to “sexual orientation” (gay, straight, etc). How? Well, they just imagined an extra word into existence.

      Neat how that works. Imagine if a court decided that the 2nd Amendment actually meant to say “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear (any) Arms, shall not be infringed.”

      I mean, we’re just adding one word so it’s okay!

  15. avatar Ralph says:

    I checked my store records for the last nine months. We sold only one gun to a person under 21. He was a 20-year-old plumber who purchased his first expensive shotgun and was looking forward to hunting waterfowl with his father. The whole family came to the store with the young guy.

    I’d hate to have to tell a young man like that to go fvck himself, which is what Walmart and Dickless would want me to do.

    FYI, Ed Stack, who runs Dickless, is a typical Democrat billionaire oligarch who pumped $300,000 into a Democrat Congressional PAC in 2016. And that was just one contribution. I’ll bet he’s taking a lot of sh!t from his Democrat pals about selling guns. I’m guessing that, sooner or later, Dickless will pull out of the gun market.

  16. avatar GS650G says:

    I was in a gun store in pa and asked to see a rifle. Interested in it i asked if he could ship it to Delaware because the sales tax was more than it cost to do a transfer. He grabbed it back and said they don’t do out of state to people trafficking guns.
    I put my hat back on and told him to stick it up his ass.

    He can have his policy and I can have mine. I’ve got the money. Dicks won’t be getting any more of mine and I’ve bought three guns from them. They can stick their inventory where it doesnt shine too.

    1. avatar Raoul Duke says:

      That worker at the counter is a frickin’ retard.

      You would think that Dick’s being as big as it is, if they had stores in Delaware, would have no problem sending said gun to a store there allowing the purchase and transfer to take place still netting the company money.

      1. avatar Broke_It says:

        “You would think that Dick’s being as big as it is,”

        I’m still giggling uncontrollably.

  17. avatar Frank says:

    If Dick’s and WalMart can stop selling goods based on personal beliefs, why can’t Christian bakers?

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