For Steffon Josey-Davis, the nightmare has lasted nearly two years. A simple instance of forgetfulness has left this young aspiring police officer locked out of his chosen profession and struggling to fulfill basic needs such as housing and employment. Now it seems as if, like any other bad dream, this absurd episode is coming to an end: He has received a full pardon from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Josey-Davis was working a private security assignment, driving an armored car while he worked on building up his credentials for admittance into the police force. He was the legal owner of a handgun, which he kept in a safe in his North Brunswick home.
While checking the gun in his garage one morning before a planned trip to a shooting range in Pennsylvania, Josey-Davis was interrupted by his young sister. Not wishing her to see the firearm, he quickly stashed it in the glove box of his Acura and went inside the house with her. It was not until he was pulled over in a routine traffic stop later that day that he remembered the gun. He had applied for a carry permit, but as Carol Bowne could tell you—if she were alive to do so—no gun permits come quickly in New Jersey.
Did Steffon Josey-Davis make a mistake? Certainly. But he did not deserve for it to ruin his life. He was arrested and fired from his job, and he saw his hopes of becoming a police officer disappear before his eyes. He was a felon now.
When the opportunity arrived to appeal his guilty verdict, he sought the help of the NAACP—he was, after all, an African-American victim of legal injustice—but he was denied. “They say ‘black lives matter,’” he said in a Fox News interview, “but obviously they really don’t, because I don’t fit their agenda … I’m not getting shot by a police officer, so they’re not going to come out and defend me.” Helping a young man who wanted to be a cop apparently was not a priority.
Evan Nappen, noted Second Amendment attorney and friend of the NRA, took Josey-Davis on as a client and was prepared for a long battle in the appeals court. But on Monday the news came through that Gov. Christie had issued him a full pardon. “It’s a great day for Steffon,” Nappen said in an interview with NRA News. “It was just an honest mistake, and now his life doesn’t have to be any further ruined by being a felon.”
Josey-Davis was vocal about his gratitude to Christie. But he didn’t allow this happy outcome to obscure the underlying truth of the situation: The gun laws in New Jersey are unconscionable, and he is only one out of many victims. “The laws need to be changed,” he said. “It’s unconstitutional, what they’re doing.”
The pardon of Steffon Josey-Davis is to be commended, and we wish him the best in his renewed efforts to join the police force. But there will continue to be more cases like his if the state’s gun laws are not repealed. A pardon does not make up for the nearly two years of his life that Josey-Davis has lost. We must also consider those in New Jersey who became victims of crime because they could not own or carry firearms. No act of government will ever bring back Carol Bowne. But rolling back New Jersey’s draconian gun laws could save the lives of future victims—both victims of criminals and of the state.