The Pennsylvania mom, facing up to 10 years in prison for unlawful possession of a firearm in the Garden State, declined a plea deal and will go to trial before a jury of her peers–as New Jersey Gov. Christopher J. Christie nibbles at the edges of restoring gun rights.
“Shaneen Allen is on the verge of being destroyed by New Jersey gun laws,” said Evan F. Nappen, the Eatontown, New Jersey attorney representing Allen. “My entire legal career has been dedicated to fighting for Second Amendment rights. She needs help and I am the guy to do it.”
When 27-year old Allen had traveled into New Jersey in her vehicle in October, she was pulled over by law enforcement for a traffic infraction, she advised the officer that she was carrying a firearm in her purse and that she possessed a Pennsylvania concealed carry license, he said.
It was at that point that the single mother of two boys was arrested and charged with unlawful felony possession of a firearm, he said. “She had the firearm in her purse because she thought she was legal to do so.”
Tom Gresham, host of Gun Talk Radio, the first nationally syndicated live, radio, talk show covering the world of firearms, personal safety and gun rights, said that most people in the country will not believe this story. “They will think you are making it up, it is too absurd to even imagine.” Yet he said this happens all the time to unsuspecting citizens traveling with their legal firearms.
“These are known traps, not speed traps that you are going to get charged $200, these are traps waiting for the unwary where you end up being a felon and spend years in a penitentiary,” he said. “Appropriately legal back home but when you cross this imaginary line you suddenly became a felon.”
Prosecuting a mother who did not try to hide anything over a mistake is blatant government overreach and a waste of resources, he said. “Certainly we have serious criminals to deal with. Shaneen simply made a mistake – that’s all it was.”
New Jersey ignores federal law that says it is perfectly legal to go through a state with a firearm that is cased and unloaded, yet the typical reaction for New Jersey officials is to throw you in jail. “Even if one is doing everything according to the law, you can end up in prison.”
If Republican Christie really cared about gun rights, he would make a call to stop this nonsense, send the young lady home, said Grisham. “Christie is pretending to be a pro-gun person when he has always been anti-gun. Nobody is buying it.”
However with enough public pressure, Christie may use this opportunity to impress gun owners by turning things around, he said. “When they feel the heat they see the light.”
These draconian gun laws indicate a mindset in the New Jersey legislature that firearms are of no legitimate use, he said. “It shows utter contempt for citizens; it is dripping with contempt.”
As well, it is at odds with the Second Amendment and the most recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions relating to firearms, added Grisham. “This is a state government that says if you own these things without saying ‘Mother may I?’ we will throw you in prison.”
Anti-gunners show an utter contempt for 100 million people who own guns, he said. “Once you understand that they do not dislike guns, they dislike owners; it all starts to make sense. It’s not the guns they do not like it’s us.”
While ignorance of the law is no excuse, a technical error ought not to be tantamount to a second degree felony charge, said Frank Jack Fiamingo, president of The New Jersey Second Amendment Society. “Shaneen mistakenly thought her permit was valid in New Jersey and she was under the impression that whenever you are pulled over, you are supposed to inform a police officer you are in possession of a firearm.”
The problem with New Jersey gun laws is it fails to distinguish from the hardened criminal and those who make honest mistakes, he said. “If there is no evidence of criminal intent or criminal activity, we should not treat it the same as we would a criminal possession.”
When there are extenuating circumstances like in this case, a pre-trial intervention process diverts the case from the prosecutorial process to avoid trial, he said. “This keeps someone out of the system because they do not belong in the system.”
Nappen, who is the author of four gun rights book including New Jersey Gun Law, said Allen was also charged with criminal possession of hollow point bullets which is illegal in the state of New Jersey with some exceptions, such as possession in your home or possession to and from a gun range.
Atlantic County prosecutor James P. McClain and the judge rejected the pre-trial intervention process based on a county no-tolerance policy, he said.
“There are no more plea deals. The prosecutor’s best offer for Shaneen was five years in state prison with a minimum mandatory 3.5 years before parole.” Allen rejected the deal and the matter is scheduled for a jury trial.
“All the mitigating facts about her do not matter because the prosecutor has a policy,” said Nappen. “So what happens when facts do not matter we have injustice.”
Allen, who is a medical technician by profession and has no prior criminal record whatsoever, who did not engage in criminal activity nor threaten violence, should not become a convicted felon over a paperwork violation, he said. “This case is outrageous. It turns a law-abiding citizen into a criminal.”
The state of New Jersey, out of 49 other states, refuses to recognize any out-of-state conceal carry licenses, he said. “Is the New Jersey license really that fantastic and special that the state cannot recognize no other state licenses, like its sister state Pennsylvania.”
Nappen said he is confident that a 12-member jury will do what the judge and prosecutor will not do, which is see that Allen was honest with the police from the beginning with no aggravating circumstances. “When a jury hears this was an honest mistake they will understand.”