The lawsuits take aim at store gun sales after a Hillsboro man was denied ammo citing store policy.

A Washington County man is suing Fred Meyer and Bi-Mart after the two companies announced they would no longer sell firearms to people under the age of 21.

Airion Grace, 20, of Hillsboro, filed two lawsuits Friday, March 9, in Washington County Circuit Court, after Grace says the companies refused to sell him shotgun ammunition because of his age.

According to the lawsuit, Grace went to the Bi-Mart store at 2075 S.W. Tualatin Valley Highway, in Hillsboro on March 6 to purchase ammunition for his shotgun, but was told by a clerk he wasn't allowed to purchase the ammunition because of his age. The store's new policy barred employees from selling firearms or ammunition to anyone under 21, the lawsuit said.

That same day, Grace attempted to purchase ammunition from Fred Meyer, 6495 S.E. Tualatin Valley Highway, and was told the same thing by employees there.

The companies were part of a larger cohort of national retailers which have announced policy changes in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, which killed 17 staff and students on Feb. 14. The alleged shooter in that case, Nikolas Cruz, 19, reportedly purchased the gun legally from a Florida gun store days before the shooting.

In the aftermath, several retailers — including Fred Meyer, Bi-Mart, Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods — have said they would no longer sell firearms or ammunition to anyone under the age of 21.

Grace filed the lawsuits against Bi-Mart and Kroger, which owns the Fred Meyer supermarket chain. Grace said the policies violate state age discrimination laws and argued the companies are "unlawfully discriminating against 18-, 19- and 20-year-old customers"

"We believe Oregon law is clear, and that under state law, no retailer can discriminate based on age," Grace's attorney Kristian Roggendorf said Monday. "If the Oregon legislature wants to change the law, it can do so but it has not, and the stores' decisions flat-out discriminate against our client."

Grace's lawsuits come less than a week after another 20-year-old in Southern Oregon sued Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart after stores in Medford and Grants Pass refused to sell the man a rifle because of his age.

Both the Hillsboro and Southern Oregon cases are being represented by Max Whittington of Grants Pass. Whittington acknowledged he's personally a gun-rights proponent, which is one of the reasons he took the cases. 

Whittington said Grace had bought ammunition from both the stores in the past, prior to the policy change, and had purchased his shotgun at the Bi-Mart store as well.

Roggendorf said Grace's lawsuits aren't about whether it's a good idea for the stores to sell firearms to people under age 21. Rather, he said, the issue is about fairness and equal justice under the law.

"We can't turn a blind eye to violations of the law … based on the apparent political views of the people involved," Roggendorf said. "When that happens, we no longer have rule of law. And that is a very dangerous precedent indeed."

Roggendorf compared the lawsuits to another discrimination case in Oregon. Owners of the former Gresham bakery "Sweet Cakes by Melissa" were forced to pay a $135,000 fine after they refused to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage in 2013.

"Just like in the bakery case you saw you couldn't do that for a cake, you can't do that with ammunition," Roggendorf said. 

The lawsuit asks the court to order the stores to stop the practice. Grace also seeks punitive damages against the businesses.

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