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Oregon Court of Appeals reverses under-21 gun ruling

The Oregon Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court’s decision to throw out a Lane County age discrimination lawsuit against a gun retailer, declaring it illegal to deny gun sales to buyers between the ages of 18 and 20.

Brandy Dalbeck filed a $10,000 lawsuit against Bi-Mart in 2018 after the company’s Florence store refused to sell her a hunting rifle when she was 18. Bi-Mart had announced that year it would no longer sell guns and ammunition to people under the age of 21. Companies like Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods made similar changes around the same time after 17 students and staff members were killed in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports federal law bans firearms retailers from selling handguns, but not rifles or shotguns, to anyone under 21. Oregon law allows residents to buy shotguns or rifles starting at age 18.

Lane County Circuit Judge Charles D. Carlson dismissed Dalbeck’s case without a trial in 2019.

Similar lawsuits were filed in Jackson and Josephine County Circuit Court in 2018 on claims that Dick’s Sporting Goods in Medford and a Grants Pass Walmart store denied gun sales to a 20-year-old Jackson County man, according to earlier Mail Tribune news reports.

In his order for dismissal, Carlson said Oregon’s anti-discrimination law did not prohibit places like Bi-Mart from discriminating against people between the ages of 18 and 20 based on age — and even if the law did, Bi-Mart could adopt a policy against selling firearms to those under 21 as a matter of public safety.

Oregon’s appeals court disagreed.

In Wednesday’s opinion penned by Appeals Judge Erin C. Lagesen, the court said Oregon’s anti-discrimination law prohibits age discrimination against anyone 18 and older — except in instances explicitly allowed under separate laws.

The case will be sent back to Lane County Circuit Court