Joseph A. Lombardo
Guns have the power to maim and kill, and as a result, their purchase and ownership is heavily regulated. However, those regulations can vary widely from one jurisdiction to the next, and what’s permissible in one state can create serious legal problems in another. 27-year-old Shaneen Allen of Philadelphia is now facing felony weapons charges in New Jersey for precisely that reason.
PA Woman Charged with Gun Felony After Crossing NJ Border
In America, few political issues are more divisive than gun control. You can see evidence of this fact in the dramatic discrepancies in gun laws from state to state. According to Guns & Ammo Magazine, Pennsylvania ranks 20th on its list of “Best States for Gun Owners in 2013” — but New Jersey ranks only 49th, in last place save for New York and Washington D.C.
Unlike its western neighbor, New Jersey is famous for exceptionally tight gun control. So what happens when someone from a state where gun laws are more relaxed, such as Pennsylvania, crosses state lines?
In some cases, there can be serious criminal charges.
In July of 2013, phlebotomist and mother of two Shaneen Allen was robbed in an alley in Philadelphia, where she resides. Determined not to be victimized again, Allen obtained a Pennsylvania license-to-carry permit and armed herself with a .380 Bersa Thunder handgun. At home, she was within the boundaries of state law — but when she crossed over into the much stricter New Jersey, all that changed.
Allen was arrested by Atlantic County police in October of 2013 after being pulled over for a routine traffic stop, with the officer citing an unsafe lane change. Once she was stopped, she voluntarily informed the officer of her weapon and corresponding license. She was promptly arrested for unlawful possession of a weapon, a crime under 2C:39-5, which states:
Any person who knowingly has in his possession any handgun, including any antique 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.
Allen Could Face Three Years in Prison if Convicted
Allen’s hearing date is scheduled for Tuesday the fifth in Atlantic County, though the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office has not released any public statements regarding the case. If she is convicted, Allen could be facing three years in prison.
Allen’s attorney, however, is determined not to let that happen. In the words of her lawyer, “There’s no way a hard-working woman like this should be considered a felon.” Evan Nappen says his client simply “made an honest mistake” in crossing borders with her weapon without knowing she was breaking any laws.
But detractors are unimpressed, saying Allen should have known better.
“Quite frankly,” argues Nicola Bocour, project and legislative director for anti-gun violence group Ceasefire NJ, “ignorance is no excuse for not knowing the law. Anyone who wants to go to New Jersey should know our laws, and the information is readily available.”
This could arguably happen again in the future. For the time being, Governor Chris Christie has expressed support for New Jersey’s standing gun laws, and opposes federally-enforced “right-to-carry reciprocity” between states, stating in 2009, “I believe that each state should have the right to make firearms laws as they see fit. 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 NJ.”
If you plan on entering or exiting the Garden State with a firearm in the near future, it is always a good idea to read up on gun laws by state to avoid getting into a similar situation. However, if you have already been charged with weapons crimes, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help. To schedule your free and private legal consultation with a New Jersey gun crimes lawyer, call the law offices of Joseph Lombardo at (609) 318-6196, or contact us online today.
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