By Jeff Knox
Buckeye, AZ --(Ammoland.com)- New Jersey’s gun laws – the same types of laws Mike Bloomberg and his ilk want to see adopted nationwide – are outrageous and unjust.
They destroy the lives of innocent people while doing nothing to reduce crime.
Case in point: Shaneen Allen, single mother of two, healthcare worker trying hard to provide for her family in Philadelphia.
She was working two jobs, often pulling late shifts and odd hours. She had been robbed twice in the past year, and a family member encouraged her to get a gun for protection. She went through a firearms training class, passed a background check, and was issued a license to carry a firearm by the Pennsylvania State Police.
About a week after acquiring a firearm, Shaneen was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. As she had been instructed in her licensing class, she immediately informed the officer that she had a license and a handgun with her.
Unfortunately for Shaneen, she was on the New Jersey side of the river at the time, and her Pennsylvania license is not recognized in New Jersey.
Shaneen spent over a month in a New Jersey county jail and is now facing up to ten years in prison, with a mandatory minimum sentence of at least three years, along with a felony conviction on her record.
If she is convicted or pleads guilty, the judge will have little choice regarding her sentence, he will be required by law to sentence her to at least three years or more.
A legal defense fund has been set up to assist Shaneen Allen in her struggle for survival. Information about it can be found on the Shaneen Allen Legal Defense Fund page on Facebook.
County prosecutors in New Jersey however, have quite a bit of leeway in deciding how to handle cases like this, and until recently, the official policy of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office was to offer people like Shaneen something they call Pre-Trial Intervention, or PTI. In other states this is often referred to as Deferred Prosecution. Under PTI, the accused is placed on probation for a year or two, and if they “keep their nose clean“, the charges simply go away and their records cleared.
The objective of PTI is to avoid tying up the courts and detention facilities with cases and people that really don’t belong there. Shaneen Allen is a perfect example of someone who would, and should, be offered PTI.
Shaneen’s bad luck continued however, because the Atlantic County Prosecutor had recently resigned and the office was taken over by an Acting County Prosecutor from the NJ Attorney General’s Office. This prosecutor rejected a PTI request from Shaneen’s Public Defender. As a last hope, Shaneen Allen made the smart decision to hire Evan Nappen, an attorney with extensive experience with New Jersey’s complex and dangerous gun control system. Nappen immediately filed an appeal of the prosecutor’s denial of PTI, and also filed a motion for dismissal based on a “firearms amnesty” that was in effect when Shaneen was arrested. The state legislature had declared a 90-day amnesty window during which unlawful possession of a firearm was not unlawful.
Somehow the arresting officer, the prosecutor, the judge, and the public defender were all unaware of this amnesty period.
As of this writing, Shaneen Allen is out on bail, and the judge has ordered a delay while he reviews Nappen’s motions, but Allen’s future, and the futures of her two young sons, is still very much in question.
Governor Chris Christie could settle those questions with the stroke of a pin or a phone call to one of his subordinates. The prosecutor works for the Attorney General, and the AG works for the Governor. In this case, the buck stops squarely on the desk of Chris Christie, but Christie has not weighed in; possibly because he hasn’t heard from enough angry citizens. The Firearms Coalition is encouraging anyone concerned about this travesty of justice to contact the Governor to demand that he put a stop to this abuse of power and intransigence coming from his subordinates in the AG’s office.
Governor Christie can be reached by phone at 609-292-6000 or by email through his office contact page by clicking here.
While Shaneen Allen’s case is particularly unsettling, it is by no means an isolated incident. Nappen says Allen’s is only one of a half-dozen such cases he’s currently involved in. We recently reported on another case in which a man moving across country pulled over in a strip-mall parking lot late one night to catch a quick nap before continuing on his journey. Had he stopped 20 miles farther down the road, he would have been safe in Pennsylvania, but because he stopped on the New Jersey side of the line, he too had a minimum three years in prison thrown at him. Then there’s the case of Brian Aitken, a young man who moved from Colorado back home to New Jersey to be closer to his young son. A minor misunderstanding led to police contact, and among the carload of belongings, his three, legally owned handguns were found, unloaded and locked in the trunk. In spite of provisions under both state and federal law protecting the safe transport of firearms during a move, Aitken was convicted of illegal possession and sentenced to 7 years in prison. Under heavy pressure from gun groups, Christie commuted Aitken’s sentence, letting him out of jail, but leaving the felony conviction on his record. Aitken is appealing that conviction.
New Jersey’s gun laws are the exact sort of lunacy the Bradys, Bloomberg, and Obama believe should be foisted on all Americans; destroying the lives and careers of the innocent while creating little more than a minor inconvenience for criminals. As governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie has done little to bring sanity to his state’s laws or to the way they are enforced. He has the power to make a difference, but has chosen not to.
Any talk of Christie as a viable candidate for President is ridiculous in the face of his lack of action to protect gun owners from the meat grinder that is New Jersey’s gun laws.
The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition is a project of Neal Knox Associates, Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.org