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PayPal is discriminating against me because I sell guns, Merced businessman says

Blair Gladwin, owner of Gladwin Guns and Ammo, located at 6493 E. Olive Ave., speaks about his lawsuit against money transfer services that refuse to open accounts with his business, in Merced, Calif., on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. Gladwin is suing money transfer services PayPal, Stipe and Square alleging discrimination against his business which sells firearms as a licensed retailer by the federal government.
Blair Gladwin, owner of Gladwin Guns and Ammo, located at 6493 E. Olive Ave., speaks about his lawsuit against money transfer services that refuse to open accounts with his business, in Merced, Calif., on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. Gladwin is suing money transfer services PayPal, Stipe and Square alleging discrimination against his business which sells firearms as a licensed retailer by the federal government. akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

Bay Area technology firms are discriminating against a Merced shop owner because he sells guns, according to his attorney.

Blair Gladwin, who has a federal license to sell firearms, filed a class action lawsuit this month against money transfer services PayPal, Stripe and Square for denying their online services to his shop, Gladwin Guns and Ammo in Merced.

The companies required Gladwin to disclose what his business sells and then terminated his account, according to the complaint filed in Merced County Superior Court. The companies do not allow the sale of guns, ammunition or other gun-related products, according to their respective policies.

Gladwin has operated his gun shop just outside Merced since 2000, he said, where he sells handguns, rifles and accessories all legal in the state. The former farmer said the shop is his only source of income.

“They basically flat out shut me down,” he told the Sun-Star. “My livelihood is on the line, because my revenue is going to drop.”

None of the online transfer companies responded to requests for comment on the lawsuit.

Essentially it’s political correctness. Indeed they do have a desire to regulate something that the government is not allowed to regulate.

William McGrane, the attorney for Blair Gladwin

Like many retailers, Gladwin has expanded his sales to online retailers. Without an online money transfer service, he said, his sales take a hit because buyers don’t want to have to get a cashier’s check.

“It’s convenient,” he said about credit cards. “I think these (transfer services) are kicking themselves in the b----. Honestly, how much more money would they make?”

Hunting, for example, is a big business nationwide with $22.1 billion in annual sales, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The “battle” comes down to how many conservative central San Joaquin Valley residents feel about guns, Gladwin said, compared to liberal Bay Area companies and state lawmakers. California last year passed a slew of new gun laws in a state that already has some of the strictest in the nation.

Regardless of anyone’s personal thoughts on guns, the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act protects federally-licensed gun stores, according to William McGrane, Gladwin’s attorney.

“It’s against the law in California to discriminate against people based on occupation,” he said. “Refusing somebody you don’t want to serve is itself illegal.”

They basically flat out shut me down. My livelihood is on the line, because my revenue is going to drop.

Blair Gladwin, owner of Gladwin Guns and Ammo in Merced

“Essentially it’s political correctness,” he continued. “Indeed they do have a desire to regulate something that the government is not allowed to regulate.”

Gladwin is one more than 50,000 licensed dealers of firearms in the country, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The lawsuits were filed in Merced County Superior Court, asking the court to mandate services to gun dealers and award no less than $5 million per company, as well as attorney fees.

Something of an unusual wrinkle in the case is that the lawsuit was filed in Merced, though PayPal, Stripe and Square do not have a brick-and-mortar presence.

McGrane said the “harm” to Gladwin’s business happened in Merced, noting the companies are based in the Silicon Valley.

“We have the option of bringing it in either San Francisco or Santa Clara, depending on the defendant,” he said, “but we don’t think those counties have the same respect for gun rights that Merced County and the counties in the Valley have.”

Group wants Rep. Jeff Denham to support legislation that would expand the Brady Law on gun crime control, including background checks on all gun purchases. Deke Farrow/jfarrow@modbee.com

Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453, @thaddeusmiller

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