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Shaneen Allen case prompts new gun ownership bill

Shaneen Allen is a single mother of two from Philadelphia with no criminal record who is now facing a mandatory three-year sentence in a New Jersey prison.

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(Sascha Burkard, ThinkStock)

When Allen was pulled for a routine traffic stop in Atlantic City last year she told the officer that she had a handgun in her car for which she had a Pennsylvania concealed carry permit. That permit doesn’t cross state lines and Allen’s ignorance of New Jersey’s strict gun laws doesn’t help her. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that on Tuesday, a judge refused to overturn a decision by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s office that would have blocked Allen’s bid to enter a pretrial program geared toward nonviolent offenders.

Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Jackson) has introduced a bill that he believes will brings common sense to gun ownership in New Jersey.

“The sentences are mandatory. There’s no discretion with the judge or the court, no discretion, mandatory prison term,” said Dancer.

It is unreasonable for anyone to be expected to be aware of all of the nuances of every gun law in every state, Dancer said. His bill would give judges the option of not sending someone like Shaneen Allen to prison if the person from out of state is caught with a gun in New Jersey and meets three requirements.

“Number one, the individual would have no criminal record. Number two, the individual would have no known association or affiliation with any street gangs and number three, the individual must be in compliance with its home state gun laws,” Dancer explained.

The assemblyman’s legislation applies to residents from other states who have a legal permit in that state to possess the firearm or are not required to obtain a permit by their home state. The measure applies only to handguns, rifles and shotguns.

The case involving Allen is not the first to make news. In 2009, Brian Aitken moved back to the Garden State from Colorado. Police found two handguns in his car that were legally purchased in Colorado. He was sentenced to seven years behind bars, but that term was eventually commuted by Gov. Chris Christie.

The legislation introduced by Dancer gives judges the flexibility to either impose a mandatory sentence or have the defendant enter into a pretrial intervention program based on the convicted person’s background.

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