Business

Fred Meyer, Bi-Mart join other big retailers in tightening gun restrictions

Bi-Mart announced Thursday it has raised to 21 the minimum age for customers to buy guns and ammunition. The Eugene, Oregon-based company’s newest store, pictured here, opened in November in Kuna.
Bi-Mart announced Thursday it has raised to 21 the minimum age for customers to buy guns and ammunition. The Eugene, Oregon-based company’s newest store, pictured here, opened in November in Kuna. doswald@idahostatesman.com

Two Northwest companies, Fred Meyer and Bi-Mart, are raising the minimum age to buy guns, adding to a list of retailers that took action this week to place restrictions on gun sales that exceed federal law.

Like Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods a day earlier, Fred Meyer – through its parent company, Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain – and Bi-Mart said Thursday that they will immediately limit gun and ammunition sales to people 21 and older.

“Recent events demonstrate the need for additional action on the part of responsible gun retailers,” Fred Meyer said in a statement. “We believe these are common-sense steps we can take immediately that are in line with our values and our vision.”

Oregon-based Bi-Mart said that during more than 60 years in business, it has cared about the products it sells and who can buy them.

“Our goal is to support responsible firearm use and make a positive contribution to the local, regional and national discussion of this issue,” spokesman Don Leber said in a statement. “We agree with many policymakers and our peers that increasing the age limit to 21 in order to purchase a firearm is a step in the right direction.”

Fred Meyer sells guns at 43 of its 133 stores in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska. In the Treasure Valley, only the Meridian store at 1850 E. Fairview Ave. sells both guns and ammunition. The Boise store at 5230 W. Franklin Road sells ammunition, along with the Garden City store at 5425 W. Chinden Blvd. and the Nampa store at 50 2nd St. N. The stores at 3527 S. Federal Way and at 10751 W. Overland Road sell neither.

Fred Meyer is the only Kroger division that sells guns, Kristal Howard, Kroger’s head of corporate communications, told the Statesman. The company operates more than two dozen retail chains, including Smith’s, Ralphs, QFC, King Soopers and Food4Less.

Fred Meyer halted sales of assault-style guns several years ago in every state except Alaska, the company said. Special orders for those guns are now unavailable in Alaska.

Bi-Mart sells guns and ammunition at all of its 77 stores in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Among them are stores in Emmett, Kuna, Weiser and Ontario, Oregon.

The company has never sold assault-style weapons or high-capacity magazines for those weapons. The store specializes in guns for hunters and sport shooters, Leber said.

Matt Perry, owner of Buckhorn Gun and Pawn in Boise, said stores are within their rights to impose restrictions beyond those limiting firearms sales to people 18 or older. But he said he has no plans to follow suit and would oppose a federal law limiting sales to people 21 or older.

“We can hand an AR-15 that is fully automatic — they call that an M-16 — to an 18-year-old kid [in the military] and he can go fight and die for our country,” Perry said. “He can’t come home after serving his tour and walk into Walmart or Fred Meyer or Dick’s Sporting Goods and buy an AR-15 that is a legal, semi-automatic rifle. I have a huge, huge problem with that.”

He fears that imposing such a restriction could lead to more regulations.

“These infringements on our Second Amendment rights – certainly they’re not going to take them away from us all at once – but the little chips turn out to be big chips eventually,” he said.

Perry said he has refused to sell guns to buyers who appeared intoxicated or troubled. He said he evaluates everyone who comes into his store while they’re talking.

Students returned this week to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida for the first time since a troubled teenager killed 17 people there, mostly children.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @JohnWSowell

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