Own a Gun, Go to Jail, Welcome to New Jersey!

Own a Gun, Go to Jail, Welcome to New Jersey!

What happened to Shaneen Allen should be synonymous for all that is wrong with gun control laws.  Allen is the Pennsylvania gun owner who ran afoul of New Jersey’s vicious attitude toward gun owners.

This young single mom twice had been the victim of crime in Pennsylvania and so she obtained a concealed carry permit.  A week later, mistakenly thinking that her permit protected her in New Jersey, Allen told a cop during a traffic stop that she had a gun in the car.  That got her 40 days in jail and meant that she was, subsequently, facing three to ten years if convicted on the charges.

An explosion of public disgust resulted in the prosecutor reversing course, and he chose to no longer seek jail time for Allen.  Had Rep. Marlin Stutzman’s H.R. 578 or Sen. John Cornyn’s S. 1908 been law, New Jersey would have been forced to recognize Allen’s Pennsylvania concealed carry permit and the nightmare never would have taken place.  

It could have been worse in New Jersey.  Much worse.  Brian Aitken was in the process of moving from his Colorado residence to a North Jersey apartment on January 2, 2009.  The move entailed depositing his household goods at his mother’s home from which he subsequently moved carloads to his apartment.  On the fateful day, Aitken’s items included his three handguns.

He had been upset because of a difficult divorce.  He had blurted out that he wished “I were not here,” speaking of New Jersey.  His mother thought maybe he was talking suicide and dialed 911, but reconsidered and hung up before there was any answer.  That did not stop Officer Michael Joy from going to the house, where he learned that Aitken’s mom was not interested in filing a report.  Not deterred, Joy tracked Aitken down and asked to perform a warrantless search of Aitken’s vehicle.

The only thing that Aitken did wrong that day was to let the cop cajole him into giving permission.  Upon learning that there were three handguns in Aitken’s possession, Officer Joy revealed his ignorance of the law and charged him with three counts of illegal possession of firearms and three counts of illegal transport of firearms and three counts of illegal transport of hollow-point ammunition.  

Unbeknownst to Joy, one does not need a permit to own guns in New Jersey, nor does one need a permit to move them from one domicile to another. Same with ammunition.  Officer Joy’s ignorance was shared by the judge and even Aitken’s attorney.  It did little good for Aitken to show everybody concerned what he had printed off the state police web site regarding the ownership and transport of guns in New Jersey.  

So many outrageous mistakes and willful hate crimes were committed by the authorities against Aitken that to see it all, one has to read his book, The Blue Tent Sky: How the Left’s War on Guns Cost me my Son and my Freedom.  

Franz Kafka wrote a novel, The Trial, 100 years ago.  It relates in fiction what Aitken went through for real.  Arrested, prosecuted and sentenced for non-existent crimes, he was incarcerated for three years.  Aitken finally was released thanks to a New Jersey talk show host, Dennis Malloy.  Malloy hammered on the travesty of justice to which Aitken had been subjected, and managed to shut down the phones to the governor’s office three times.    

As a result, Christie commuted Aitken’s sentence and set him free.  While Aitken was very happy about this, he had actually sought a pardon.  A sentence commutation still indicates guilt, but Aitken was guilty of nothing.  

The Stutzman-Cornyn legislation needs to be approved by the Congress early in 2015.  The message to your Senators and Congressman must be: “No more Brian Aitkens or Shaneen Allens.”

Larry Pratt is the Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, a grassroots gun lobby with a million members and activists.