Last Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Michael Donio refused to dismiss a case brought forward by the State of New Jersey against Shaneen Allen for unlawful possession of a firearm. For those unfamiliar with the story, Allen is a single mother of two who was arrested last October in Atlantic County, NJ after revealing she was carrying a handgun during a routine traffic stop. Allen, licensed to carry in her home state of Pennsylvania, was unaware that her license was invalid in neighboring New Jersey and naively shared her armed status with the officer during the stop. She was arrested and held in jail for an absurd 40 days. Now, she is being charged with a felony that could carry a minimum three-year prison sentence.
While gun owners have been largely supportive of her throughout this fiasco, people on both sides of the gun rights issue have criticized her failure to educate herself on the carry laws of New Jersey. While some of us enthusiasts keep up with these sorts of issues very well, it is hardly realistic to expect all licensed concealed carriers to know the laws of each and every state. Currently, concealed carry of some sort is legal in all 50 states. However, the laws surrounding lawful carry are different in each state, a complexity which is compounded by the varied reciprocity agreements that exist between individual states. Put simply, interstate concealed carry is a legal minefield that all too often blows up in the faces of otherwise law-abiding Americans.
Imagine for a moment an America where each state made individual reciprocity agreements with respect to drivers’ licenses or that certain states could arbitrarily ban specific makes and models of cars that were otherwise legal to drive in other states. It is not difficult to see how crippling such a system would be. A resident of Nevada could be pulled over for driving his energy inefficient pickup truck in neighboring California. Similarly, an Indiana resident could be barred from driving on vacation in Florida simply because the Florida legislature did not trust the Indiana licensing process.
It is fairly obvious that the above system would be wholly unworkable, but the hypothetical situation shares strong parallels with the licensing structure for concealed carry in various states throughout today’s United States. Following Moore v. Madigan (2012), concealed carry has been legalized in all 50 states. There is now very little reason to deny that nationwide concealed carry reciprocity should become a reality. I will admit to considerable ambivalence towards the topic in the past, but after reading about Shaneen Allen’s case and those of others who have fallen into similarly unfortunate situations, I can no longer deny that reciprocity is the next logical step in the advancement of concealed carry rights.
Washington Post story on Shaneen Allen: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/07/22/shaneen-allen-race-and-gun-control/