In 2013 Pennsylvania resident Shaneen Allen spent 48 days in jail for carrying a handgun into New Jersey while holding a valid Pennsylvania concealed carry license. Though eventually pardoned by Gov. Christie, she faced a minimum of three years in prison and hefty fines for her mistake.
Today Allen has become the face of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. Republicans have cited her experience as they argue for allowing concealed carry permit holders to take their firearms across state lines without fear of prosecution.
“Hopefully I’ll be at the White House next to (President) Trump signing this bill,” Allen told ABC News. “Republicans put their money where their mouth was.”
Republicans designed the Reciprocity Act to protect people like Allen who hold valid CCLs in their state of residence but travel into more restrictive states for work or pleasure. These individuals, proponents argue, should not face harsh punishments if they mistakenly bring their handgun across state lines.
Under the current system, some states accept CCLs from other states, but some do not. The permit holder must determine the laws in the states they wish to travel. The Reciprocity Act would turn CCLs into a legal document much like a driver’s license. A valid CCL in one state must be accepted by law enforcement officers in any other state.
Allen told ABC that she thought her CCL was “just like a driver’s license.” While her reasoning is understandable, the mother of two nearly became a convicted felon for her mistake. She was pulled over on the Atlantic City Expressway for making an unsafe lane change, but was arrested when she told the officer she was carrying a handgun under a valid Pennsylvania CCL.
She spent nearly two months in jail before she was admitted to a pretrial intervention program. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie interviewed and pardoned her in 2015, ending a two-year ordeal that garnered national attention.
“When you see the system go wrong in the life of a real person it becomes more compelling,” GOP New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur told ABC News after meeting with Allen and voting for the legislation. “The woman did nothing wrong and yet her family was thrown into real chaos.”
To those who argue that expanding concealed carry laws would give criminals more opportunities to carry firearms, Allen points out that criminals carry firearms with or without National Reciprocity.
“All I can say is I pray for them. Crime is everywhere,” she said. “Every person that is carrying could possibly save your life. A crime could happen anywhere.”