That first purchase attempt was made four days before Dick’s announced it wouldn’t sell guns to anyone under 21 in the wake of the recent school shooting in Parkside, Florida, which was perpetrated by a 19-year-old gunman.
Last week, Watson attempted to purchase a rifle at a Walmart in Grant’s Pass and was similarly refused. Walmart announced it’s new policy the same day as Dick’s.
This story from guns.com says that, "while federal regulators advise FFLs that they can, and should, exercise their right to refuse potentially unlawful firearms transactions, Watson is taking the big box stores to court over Oregon's discrimination statutes, where the case may holds ome legal water."
The state law states that as long as a person is legally an adult, they can’t be refused something based on age that is ordinarily available to other adults. Basically it means once someone is over 18 you can’t discriminate against them based on age. The law offers exemptions for the sale of alcohol or marijuana, but doesn’t mention firearms.
"They [sellers] can't set their own age limit because the statute has already done that," said Jim Hargreaves in the story. Hargreaves is a retired county judge in Oregon. "They don't have any authority because the statute specifically says you can't as a merchant discriminate against either young people or old people. If you're selling something you have to sell it to anyone who is entitled to buy it by law."
According to this story from oregonlive.com, Watson's attorney says he isn't trying to make a political statement nor is he part of any movement. He was genuinely trying to buy a rifle when he went into the Field and Stream store and didn't know about the new policy, as it hadn't been announced yet.
The story says a spokesperson for Walmart defended the store's new policy.
"In light of recent events, we reviewed our policy on firearm sales," Hargrove said in an emailed statement. "As a result, we raised the age restriction for the purchase of firearms and ammunition to 21 years of age. We stand behind our decision and plan to defend it. While we haven't seen the complaint, we will respond as appropriate with the court."