Philadelphia Mom Facing Felony Weapons Charges After Entering NJ with PA-Licensed Gun
27-year-old mother of two Shaneen Allen of Philadelphia is facing a sentence of three years in prison for carrying a weapon that was perfectly legal… in Pennsylvania, at least. Unfortunately for Allen, neighboring New Jersey observes far stricter gun laws, and what was legal at home became a serious felony crime once she crossed state lines. Allen’s defense attorney says the charges are unfair, and that his client is a perfect example of why it’s important to push for concealed weapon reciprocity policies.
Woman Charged with Gun Possession Says, “I Cry Myself to Sleep Every Night”
Shaneen Allen is a mother of two, a phlebotomist, and a resident of Philadelphia. In July of 2013, she became the victim of a robbery, and decided to take future measures to protect herself. After her ordeal, she obtained a license-to-carry permit, and armed herself with a .380 caliber Bersa Thunder handgun.
“I was actually scared to buy the firearm,” Allen remembers, “because I didn’t know anything about guns.”
Allen started taking lessons to improve her proficiency, and gradually eased back into normal life — for a time.
Then, one evening in October of 2013, everything changed. Allen was driving to Atlantic City to prepare for her son’s birthday party when she was flagged down by a New Jersey State Police trooper making a routine traffic stop. He told Allen she had made an unsafe lane change, and, wanting to be compliant, she voluntarily informed him that she was carrying a legal and licensed gun in her purse.
What Allen didn’t know was that the gun wasn’t actually legal — at least, not in New Jersey.
In New Jersey, weapons possession is addressed by 2C:39-5, which states that anyone “who knowingly has in his possession any handgun… without first having obtained a permit to carry the same as provided in N.J.S.2C:58-4, is guilty of a crime of the second degree.”
The trooper immediately placed Allen under arrest, triggering a long and nightmarish legal battle for a woman who had no idea she was even committing a crime.
“It’s all so hard to believe,” Allen laments. “I cry myself to sleep every night. Every day it’s all fear.”
Should Gun Licenses Be Recognized Out-of-State?
Some place the blame upon Allen, arguing she should have known better. In the words of Nicola Bocour, the legislative director of gun violence prevention group Ceasefire NJ, “Quite frankly, ignorance is no excuse for not knowing the law. Anyone who wants to go to New Jersey should know our laws.”
Others, however, disagree with Bocour’s assessment. Allen’s attorney, Evan Nappen, is among them.
“She’s a hard-working single mom,” Nappen says. “It’s really crazy that New Jersey is taking someone who’s got no criminal record and was doing nothing wrong — other than a minor traffic violation — and making it into a felony-level conviction with minimal mandatory time.”
But, Nappen has hope that changes to the current legislation will help to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.
“Right now,” he says, “there’s a national law being proposed that would mandate that all states recognize other states licenses. It’s still pending, but it’s needed for people like this. I’m calling that bill Shaneen’s law.”
However, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has historically opposed mandatory reciprocity for concealed carry licenses. In his opinion, these policies only represent the federal government overstepping its bounds.
“I believe that each state should have the right to make firearms laws as they see fit,” Christie says. “I don’t believe it’s right for the federal government to get into the middle of this and decide firearms laws for the people of the state of New Jersey.”
Kermit Roosevelt, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, agrees with Christie and Bocour. “I don’t think the law is problematic,” Roosevelt says. “Each state has legal authority to regulate behavior within its borders. So, they’re saying we have laws, and if you come here, you have to play by our rules.”
Last summer, Christie approved a package of 10 bills, tightening already strict laws even further.
Now, Allen faces a sentence of three years if she is convicted.
New Jersey is known for having some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, while neighboring Pennsylvania is somewhat more relaxed in its regulatory policies. Nonetheless, gun crimes can be charged in either state — and many of them can be counted as felonies. If you have been accused of firearm possession or other weapons crimes, you need the support of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Young, Marr & Associates may be able to help. To schedule your free and confidential legal consultation, call our law offices at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania, or contact us online.