Gun Laws & Legislation

Pardon Me: New Jersey Gov. Christie’s Last Act Frees Those Accused Of Petty Gun Violations

By Larry Keane

Outgoing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in his last week in office issued more pardons for gun owners who violated the state’s stringent gun laws. Their crime was crossing into the Garden State with a legally-purchased firearm from their home state.

Gov. Christie granted 26 clemency orders, nearly all of those pardons, including those arrested for entering New Jersey with firearms. They included Brian Aitken, who was arrested in 2009, convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for having two unloaded handguns locked in the trunk of his car. Aitken purchased the guns in Colorado, but his crime was bringing them to New Jersey. Aitken’s sentence was commuted after four months served in 2010. He’s now pardoned.

Marine Was Days Away from Prison

Gov. Christie also pardoned Marine Sgt. Hisashi Pompey, who possessed a handgun while visiting friends in New Jersey from his base in Virginia. The two-tour Afghanistan veteran was convicted for not having a New Jersey permit and was days away from reporting to prison when his three-year sentence was commuted earlier this year.

Seven others – Meghan Fellenbaum, Brandon Fregm, Brian Murphy, Adrian Rubio, Antonio Scott, Angel Cordero and Christopher O’Sullivan — were pardoned for unlawful possession of a weapon.

These, of course, aren’t the first cases. Most noteworthy, is the case of Shaneen Allen, the Philadelphia mother who was convicted for unlawful firearms and ammunition possession after she missed her exit and accidentally crossed into New Jersey. She possessed a concealed carry permit in Pennsylvania and, as she had been trained to do, informed the state trooper she had the gun. She was pardoned by Gov. Christie in 2015 and is now a leading advocate for Concealed Carry Reciprocity.

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, H.R. 38, introduced by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), passed the House of Representatives last year by a vote of 231-198. It is now in the Senate, where a similarly titled bill, S. 446, was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). That legislation has already garnered 39 cosponsors.

Recognizing Carry Permits Like Driver’s License

Both bills would recognize concealed carry permits much the same way a driver’s license is recognized from state to state. The most significant difference between versions is the Senate version would require a permit from a home state. The House version recognizes constitutional carry laws from home states.

The legislation faces challenges. Senate Minority Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), not surprisingly called for the legislation to be defeated. Rep. Hudson told The Daily Caller that if the bill gets to President Trump’s desk, “I can tell you, the president’s ready to sign this law. President Trump actually campaigned on concealed carry reciprocity. We’ve got a partner in the White House and we just got to get it to his desk.”

The congressman added he’s been in talks with White House staff on maintaining momentum for Concealed Carry Reciprocity.

Meanwhile, New Jersey’s new governor Phil Murphy was sworn in this week. He campaigned on a platform of even stricter gun laws for the Garden State.

Congress needs to act to keep from making criminals of law-abiding gun owners, simply for crossing a line on a map and losing their rights.

Larry Keane is Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.