3 major retailers across the country ban sale of guns, ammunition to customers younger than 21 years old

TEMPE – Kroger Co., the nation’s largest grocery chain, on Thursday announced its Fred Meyer stores will discontinue the sale of guns and ammunition to customers younger than 21 years old. It’s the third major U.S. retailer in two days to also raise the purchase age.

Kroger sells firearms at 43 Fred Meyer locations in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The Kroger grocery stores, which include Fry’s Food and Drug stores in Arizona, do not sell weapons, according to an article on CNN.

On Wednesday, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart made similar decisions in response to the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

After Dick’s Sporting Goods made its announcement Wednesday morning, attorney Trent Woods of AZgunlaw.com, a site dedicated to the defense and support of Second Amendment rights, said Dick’s had every right to make its decision.

He said it was unlikely Dick’s would be sued for age discrimination because those laws usually apply to those older than 40, but the situation could change if other retailers follow suit.

If every major retailer required customers to be 21 or older to buy a firearm, he said, it would amount to a de facto ban – even though that wouldn’t violate constitutional rights.

“Is it age discrimination? Well, now maybe it is,” he said. “It’s possible if more and more retailers engage in this behavior.”

The new policies about firearm sales came about two weeks after the school shooting that killed 14 high school students and three faculty members.

Reacting to Dick’s announcement, some Arizonans on Wednesday said they would head to Dick’s to show their support, while others called for a boycott.

“(Dick’s is) listening to the young people affected by this,” said Joan Dupnick, a shopper at Dick’s Tempe store, one of nine in the state.

Dupnick supports the national chain’s decision and its call for stronger government regulations: “I don’t really think there’s a reason for people to have an assault rifle.”

Woods disagreed, saying assault rifles, such as the AR-15 used in the Parkland killings, are commonly used for hunting.

“AR-15s absolutely are used for hunting, but it depends on what you’re hunting,” Woods said. “They’re not used to hunt deer or elk or other big game. … It is used to hunt varmint, coyotes, things like that all the time.”

In a statement, Dick’s Sporting Goods said officials are saddened by the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and offered thoughts and prayers for the victims and their loved ones.

“But thoughts and prayers are not enough,” the statement said. “We have to help solve the problem that’s in front of us.”

CEO Edward Stack said in the statement and on Good Morning America that the company would stop selling the assault-style firearms in all 35 Field & Stream stores, a chain of hunting and fishing stores owned by Dick’s. The company also will stop selling high-capacity magazines and reinforced its commitment not to sell so-called bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to fire more rapidly.

On Twitter, Dick’s said it had sold a shotgun to the suspected Parkland shooter in November 2017: “It was not the gun, nor the type of gun, he used in the shooting. But it could have been.”

An article in The New York Times called it “one of the strongest stances taken by corporate America on guns, adding fuel to an already heated national debate. It also carries symbolic weight, coming from a prominent national gun seller.”

Walmart’s statement said company officials made the latest change “in light of recent events.”

The company also pointed out it ended sales of moderns sporting rifles, including the AR-15, in 2015.

“Our heritage as a company has always been in serving sportsmen and hunters, and we will continue to do so in a responsible way,” the statement read.

Lisa Campodall’Orto of Scottsdale took to Twitter to praise the decision by Dick’s Sporting Goods: “What if everyone posted a picture of what they purchased at Dick’s Sporting Goods today? Wouldn’t that be a great way to show support? #NeverAgain

Campodall’Orto, who has twin 18-year-old sons, said the student activists who have spoken up inspired her to share on social media. She’s thrilled to see the private sector getting on board, she said in a message to Cronkite News.

However, a Twitter user from Tucson – username @bthom3000 – said the move by Dick’s will not change things.

“You lost me forever as a customer. I’m also not an NRA member. I’m just tired of people blaming objects and not finding the root cause of these actions.”

Cronkite News reporter Jake Epley and Crystal Alvarez contributed to this article.