On the same day Gov. Rick Scott signed new gun restrictions into state law, the NRA filed a lawsuit challenging the increase in the minimum age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21.
The NRA argues the new age requirements, enacted after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, affect the constitutional rights of young women in particular.
"Women between the ages of 18 and 21 are much less likely to engage in violent crime than older members of the general population who are unaffected by the ban," the NRA said in news release March 9.
The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Florida federal court, also makes an argument that the law unfairly targets women. Women, the lawsuit says, "pose a relatively slight risk of perpetrating" a school shooting and violent crime.
Is that true? Relative to men, yes, a fact that is supported by federal crime statistics. But experts in criminal justice say it is a spurious argument against raising the age requirement.
"Just because young women are less likely to do something doesn’t mean a particular woman won’t do it," said Alan Lizotte, a criminologist at the University of SUNY Albany.
The lawsuit cited a year’s worth of FBI statistics for women ages 18 to 20:
"For example, in 2015, women in this age group accounted for only 1.8 percent of arrests for violent crime, while males in the same age bracket accounted for 8.7 percent of such arrests—and males between the ages of 21 and 24, who may lawfully purchase firearms under current law, accounted for 9.2 percent."
Women between the ages of 18 and 20 accounted for 7,168 arrests in 2015 for violent crime, which includes murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Men in the same age group accounted for 33,589 violent crime arrests.
Northeastern University Criminology Professor James Alan Fox argued that the new age guidelines probably won’t affect women between the ages of 18 to 20, especially in the state of Florida.
That’s because women in that age group are more likely to use a handgun, rather than the assault-style firearms included in the new law. Fox said overall, handguns are more prevalent; more accessible; and easier to carry, which is why women generally prefer handguns over long rifles like shotguns.
According to data produced by Fox, between 2000 and 2016, there were 1,159 homicides in which a woman between the age of 18 to 20 used any type of gun. Of that total, only 83 homicides, included the type of firearm in the legislation, according to Fox.
In contrast, men were responsible for far more homicides involving firearms included on the new age guidelines. From 2000 to 2016, Fox said there were 1,882 homicides in which a man used a long gun or shotgun.
That’s far more than that of women, which is why Fox said he doesn’t believe the new law would affect women more.
Email interview with Alan Lizotte, University at Albany criminologist, March 12, 2018
Email interview with James Alan Fox, Northeastern University criminologist, March 12, 2018
NRA, NRA Files Suit Challenging Florida Gun Control Law, March 9
NRA lawsuit, accessed March 12