BC teen sues Dick’s Sporting Goods over gun sale policy

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — An 18-year-old Battle Creek man is suing a large retailer over a policy prohibiting the sale of firearms to people under 21.

Tristin Fulton, a Battle Creek High School student, is suing Dick’s Sporting Goods, claiming the company violated his civil rights by refusing to sell him a shotgun.

PDF: Tristin Mac Fulton v. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc.

Dick’s instituted the rule in response to the recent mass shootings at a Florida High School. The suspect in that shooting is 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz.

Along with the lawsuit, Fulton’s attorney included video of his 18-year-old client being turned away at a Dick’s Store located in Troy. The video shows a short exchange between Fulton and the unidentified clerk.

The clerk informs Fulton he can’t sell the weapon to anyone under the age of 21. Fulton then asks about his rights, to which the clerk replies that its company policy. Fulton then walks away.

In the filing, Fulton’s attorney, James Makowski wrote, “By denying an otherwise legally permissible sale based solely upon the age of Plaintiff, Defendant has violated MCL 37.2302(a),”

MCL 37.2302(a) is better known as Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

Despite what Makowski said, other lawyers aren’t so sure Fulton has a case.

“That is the question,” said Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School Assistant Dean and Associate Professor Tracey Brame. “But I’m not sure how simple it is.”

Brame said the answer may lie in the way Elliot-Larsen, Michigan’s law that establishes the who, what, and why when it comes to civil rights protection. Under the law, age matters.

“(The) key to their lawsuit is a finding that Elliot-Larsen applies in the way that they’re trying to apply it.  But the language is there,” said Brame.

She said the biggest issue with the store’s policy is that it doesn’t match up with state law, which allows 18-year-old to purchase a gun.

“This is really more of a retailer making a policy decision that guns don’t belong in the hands of people under 21, importantly a decision that the legislature hasn’t made,” Brame said.

Dick’s isn’t alone, as Walmart has created a similar age limit.

Fulton’s lawsuit is not the first challenging the policies, and it probably won’t be the last.

“I’ll be watching closely because I’m very interested in it,” said Brame.

The lawsuit is asking for damages more than $25,000, but Makowski said their main objective is to force Dick’s the repeal the policy.

Dick’s Sporting Goods has not responded to a request for comment.

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