Mich. student, 18, sues Dick’s for barring gun purchase

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac – An 18-year-old Battle Creek high school student has sued a Troy sporting goods store for refusing recently to sell him a shotgun because he was under 21.

Tristin Mac Fulton is seeking injunctive relief barring Dick’s Sporting Goods from “systematic and widespread violations of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act” and wants more than $25,000 personally in damages for “denying an otherwise legally permissible sale based sole upon the age of Plaintiff …”

“Some people have confused this with a Second Amendment question,” said Fulton. “It’s not. This is about civil rights of people who wish to legally purchase and own a firearm for sporting reasons, hunting, home protection, whatever.

“I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Fulton, whose father is a co-owner of a Battle Creek firearms store, said he picked the Troy store to attempt a purchase “out of convenience for my attorney.”

“He is on that side of the state,” said Fulton, who added that people who are unable to pass background checks should not have the right to buy or own a firearm.

The Dick’s store in question, one of a dozen in Michigan, is owned by a national retailer headquartered in Pennsylvania. Dick’s stores received much attention after the investigation of the mass shooting Feb. 14 at a Parkland, Florida, high school revealed the suspect was 19 and had bought a gun from the retailer without difficulty. Seventeen people, students and adults, died in the incident.

In the wake of the Florida shooting, various individuals and groups have called for tighter gun control laws and more involvement among gun dealers to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of inappropriate people. Dick’s Sporting Goods was applauded by many gun control advocates when it announced Feb. 28 it would stop selling assault-type weapons and bar all firearm purchases to anyone under 21.

Walmart and Michigan-based Meijer have announced similar restrictions.

A manager at Dick’s store in Troy declined to respond or discuss the store’s policy and referred all questions to Dick’s Sporting Goods corporate headquarters media relations. A message left at the corporate offices and a request to speak with someone for comment were not immediately returned Friday.

The Oakland Circuit Court lawsuit, assigned to Judge Cheryl A. Matthews, alleges Fulton went to the Dick’s Troy store on W. 14 Mile, on March 5 intending to buy a gun but was told by employees they had a new corporate policy denying such sales to persons under 21 years of age.

The lawsuit cites Michigan law, which allows anyone 18 or older to legally purchase a firearm “unless otherwise legally incapacitated.” The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits a business from denying “goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations …because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex or marital status.”

“We need to enforce existing laws and law enforcement and others need to do their jobs,” said attorney James J. Makowski, saying the Florida shooter was the only one in such incidents to have legally obtained a firearm used to kill.

“In other shootings, people have obtained weapons in their homes or stolen them,” said Markowski. “We have tools out there – we just need to use them. Not deny rights to an entire class because it looks good. That doesn’t address the problem.”


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