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When Prosecution is Persecution

Monday, December 1, 2014

When Prosecution is Persecution

Good and evil. Right and wrong.Those are two fundamental opposing concepts that define the nature of humankind.

But for the gun-ban crowd, each and every one of them—when it comes to private ownership of firearms and armed self-defense, the very heart of the Second Amendment—there is no such conflict. In their lexicon, firearms in the hands of private citizens are inherently evil.

These zealots for disarming individual Americans choose not to recognize the basic notion that defines American freedom: the difference between a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun.

There is no better example of that mindset than with the persecution of a young woman named Shaneen Allen. Her crime? Being honest in New Jersey.

Allen, a Philadelphia resident, mistakenly believed her Pennsylvania carry permit was like her driver’s license—universally recognized across state lines. When she crossed the bridge into New Jersey in October 2013, she entered a gun-ban Twilight Zone that began with a state trooper pulling her over for a minor traffic infraction.

Allen acted properly when she volunteered that she possessed a lawful carry permit and had a Bersa semi-auto in her purse in the back seat. The handgun, by the way, was locked and inoperable. (In New Jersey, Right-to-Carry permits are rarely issued, subject to the whim of gun-ban public officials.)

Thus began a nightmare spun by officials backed by the power of oppressive “gun control” laws—all hell-bent on punishing this single, working mom for making a simple mistake. With all the talk about “bullies” among the chattering classes, that is the only word to describe New Jersey officials who dealt with Allen.

She was dragged out of her car and handcuffed, charged with illegal possession of a handgun and possession of illegal cartridges—common self-defense .380 hollow-points. A second officer on the scene told Allen that he would have sent her home to Philadelphia to return to New Jersey unarmed—with no one the wiser. Neither that option, nor the U.S. Constitution, moved the arresting officer.

Perhaps the best description of the injustice done to her under New Jersey gun laws was penned in a USA Today analysis by renowned professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds:

“… she’s being punished for something the Constitution says—and the Supreme Court has agreed—is a constitutional right. And the super-stiff penalties and abusive prosecution she’s experiencing are pretty clearly intended to chill people from exercising that right.”

The “super-stiff” felonies for which she was arraigned are virtually one step below penalties for violent crime in New Jersey. Consequently, Allen spent 46 days in jail awaiting trial.

Allen crossed paths with an even bigger force—Jim McClain, the prosecutor of Atlantic County, who could have used discretion and simply declined to pursue the charges. Or he could have asked the court to place Allen in New Jersey’s Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI), designed for first offenders like her which would result in no criminal record.

McClain, a gun-ban zealot, refused that option and offered Allen a plea deal under which she would spend a minimum of three years in prison, likely lose her two young boys and have an employment impediment that would stick with her for the rest of her life—convicted felon. She would also become a prohibited person whose future possession of a firearm or ammunition would be a federal felony.

Next we meet the assistant prosecutor, Deborah Hay, who defined Allen’s crime as “too serious to allow divergence,” saying Allen going to prison would serve as an example.

Example of what? Decent, peaceable people exercising a constitutional right who unknowingly commit a crime under New Jersey’s prohibitive statutes?

Oh yes, I almost forgot … just before pulling out all the stops to put this young woman in prison and denying her the second chance of “diversion,” prosecutor McClain gave that legal PTI “time-out” to Baltimore Ravens football star, Ray Rice. His crime? Getting caught on surveillance video bashing his girlfriend unconscious with a vicious punch to her face, then dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator. Where McCain was not prepared to “make an example” of a huge athlete beating a small woman senseless, he was willing to throw the book of mandatory penalties against Shaneen Allen.

And where were the gun banners in response to the civil rights abuse suffered by Allen? Just where you would expect.

Try these smug words from Bryan Miller, who heads the group Heeding God’s Call: “Fortunately, the notoriety of this case will make it less likely Pennsylvanians will carry concealed and loaded handguns in New Jersey, thereby making them and the Garden State safer from gun violence.”

Safer from gun violence? Shaneen Allen? While New Jersey is awash in violence committed by real criminals who go unpunished?

The truth is Allen’s only connection with “gun violence” was that she was robbed twice in Philadelphia—the very reason she bought a firearm for self-protection and applied for and received a carry permit.

Just a short time ago, it seemed that there was no justice to be had in New Jersey for Shaneen Allen. But public outcry by gun owners across the nation—led by NRA members—combined with the work of her dedicated, skilled lawyer, Evan Nappen (an NRA Benefactor member), reversed this injustice. New Jersey’s acting Attorney General, John Hoffman, interceded and Allen was offered the “intervention” program, after the nearly year-long nightmare.

The “notoriety of this case” has awakened Americans to the need for enactment of the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act so lawful carry permit owners can legally bear arms across state lines so long as they are in compliance with the laws of their home states.

I promise you that among NRA’s top initiatives for the new U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives in January will be enacting this national law to prevent the kind of injustice suffered by Shaneen Allen and other victims under repressive, prohibitive gun laws wherever these exist in America.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.