On his final day in office, former N.J. Gov. Chris Christie took advantage of his last chance to clear the records of otherwise law-abiding people who had been caught in the web of New Jersey’s sticky gun laws.
Christie issued clemency orders to 26 people who had had run-ins with the law in New Jersey, including a few tourists who had guns in their possession. In many cases, the gun possession charges were ancillary to the main offense (something as simple as a traffic ticket), and the out-of-state residents had permits or were otherwise allowed to carry in their home state.
Among those who had gun charges on their record expunged were Brian D. Aitken and Marine Sgt. Hisashi Pompey.
Regular readers of America’s 1st Freedom might remember Aitken. He was a media consultant who lived in Colorado, but he relocated to New Jersey temporarily to live with his parents after he and his wife divorced. At some point, police were checking on Aitken’s welfare, and that check included a search of his car, where he had guns that he was legally able to own in Colorado. Christie had earlier commuted Aitken’s sentence to time served, but the felony conviction stayed on Aitken’s record until the pardon.
Pompey, who served two tours of duty fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan, had gotten into an altercation at a nightclub. When police responded, they discovered that he had a gun in his possession. Although he had a permit to carry in his home state, New Jersey does not recognize other states’ decisions in that regard, so he was arrested. After a trial, he received a three-year prison sentence, but Christie commuted the sentence to time served.
The NRA has long advocated for national concealed carry reciprocity. One of the main arguments in favor of reciprocity is that it is difficult for even the most studious gun owner to know all the laws of every jurisdiction. Not only are gun owners expected to have perfect knowledge of the law, but they’re also expected to take difficult or even dangerous steps comply with the law while exercising their constitutional rights. That can entail pulling over before you cross a state line in your vehicle, just so you can lock up your gun case. While that sounds simple enough, when you consider traffic and weather, it can be more complicated in practice than it sounds in theory.
The House of Representatives late last year passed the Concealed Carry Act of 2017. It would ensure that Americans’ constitutional right to carry a firearm for self-defense doesn’t end at state borders.
Too many otherwise law-abiding gun owners have had their names and reputations tarnished because of New Jersey’s strict enforcement of gun laws, laws that do little to stand in the way of criminals possessing, carrying, or using firearms to commit crime. New Jersey is not the only jurisdiction to cause such grief, but it’s one that has continually made the news because the lack of any enforcement discretion by New Jersey prosecutors. It’s unclear what possible public safety purpose is advanced by putting law-abiding Americans in prison for failing to understand the Garden State’s byzantine gun laws.
This is why the Senate needs to pass the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which President Donald Trump could then sign into law.