Perhaps it was the public pressure from gun-rights advocates, perhaps it was the comparisons that journalists made between this case and the Ray Rice case, perhaps it was the National Rifle Association and its viral videos on the matter, or perhaps it was a combination of all three, but whatever it was common sense finally sunk in and Atlantic Count Prosecutor Jim McClain has changed his tune with respect to Shaneen Allen, the mother of two and licensed Pennsylvania concealed carry permit holder who faced felony charges and up to ten years in prison for accidentally carrying her firearm into New Jersey.
As mentioned, we’ll probably never know what really made McClain change his mind, but on Wednesday he issued a press release in which he talked about why he is now letting Ms. Allen bypass prison and enter the pre-trail intervention program, something he initially refused to do citing his desire to make the case a “deterrent” to others:
On September 24, 2014, the Office of the Attorney General released a clarification
of the 2008 “Graves Act” Directive, which deals with those situations in which an
out-of-state resident who holds a valid permit to carry a firearm within his or her
home state is arrested in New Jersey and charged with illegal possession of a
firearm under New Jersey law. This clarification was issued following a
comprehensive review by the Office of the Attorney General of New Jersey’s
firearms possession laws, as well as consultation by the Office of the Attorney
General with each of the 21 county prosecutors. The resulting clarification to the
2008 directive is a reasoned and considered effort to ensure consistent treatment
of similarly situated defendants throughout the state.
In applying the factors set out in the clarification, I determined that the defendant in
this case should be offered the opportunity to be admitted into the Atlantic County
PTI Program and I have communicated that determination to the Court and to
In the next few weeks, I will review similar cases that are pending within our
jurisdiction and make appropriate decisions following the application of the factors
set out in the clarification.
Yes, that’s what they call a 180. What we’re supposed to believe is that the state attorney general weighed in, as did other county prosecutors, to clarify the law with respect to CCW holders accidentally bringing firearms across the border. Sure, that’s true, but what McClain is not acknowledging is what prompted the review of the law: the collective outcry from 2A advocates, journalists and the NRA. Had no one raised awareness about Ms. Allen’s plight, there’s little doubt that McClain would have prosecuted her to the fullest extent of the law, slapping her with a felony and putting her behind bars.
What makes sense in these situations, which let’s be honest happen from time to time, is that a slap on the wrist is warranted, as state Attorney General John J. Hoffman intimated in his clarification of the law, noting that “imprisonment is neither necessary nor appropriate to serve the interests of justice and protect public safety.”
Exactly. Why jail an otherwise law-abiding citizen for making an honest mistake? It doesn’t make sense. But when it comes to the treatment of gun owners in this country, in many states their is an institutional hostility toward us, a desire to abandon reason, equal protection under the law and make criminals out of the law-abiding. Hopefully, the NRA is correct that Shaneen Allen is a “crusader of change” and that her arrest leads injudicious cops, feckless prosecutors and irrational lawmakers around the country to rethink the way they treat gun owners. But I remain skeptical. If anything, I fear it may only harden their resolve to come after us.