When I read in the news recently that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had pardoned a Pennsylvania mom who had been pulled over for speeding in the Garden State and ended up being jailed for having a gun in her car, all I could think about the was famous Ron Burgundy quote: “Wow. That escalated quickly.”
Oh, did I mention that she was a concealed weapon permit holder in Pennsylvania? That, upon being stopped, she told the arresting officer that indeed, she was a permit holder and that the gun was in her vehicle?
It didn’t matter: the woman, Shalene Allen, was charged and faced as many as three years in prison for the gun violation.
This is why: There is no reciprocity agreement between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which means that just because you’re good to go with your permit in the Commonwealth, means very little when you drive over the state border. If you get caught speeding, or blowing through a red light, and you have a gun in your car or on your person, you’re gonna get charged, regardless of your permit status in Pennsylvania.
Actually, there are only 30 states that do honor Pennsylvania’s concealed carry permits, and 19 that don’t. Ohio and New York don’t reciprocate, either. Neither do Maryland and Delaware. The only state bordering Pennsylvania that does is West Virginia.
All I’m trying to say is, as a Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney, I see situations like Ms. Allen’s all the time – where the client truly believes they are being law abiding.
Take some free advice from a Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer who has represented plenty of lawful gun owners: You have got to be careful – because confusion over the law is not an excuse when you get charged and have to go into a courtroom to defend yourself (or have someone like me do it for you).
Here’s an example: In Pennsylvania, gun owners need what is known as a concealed carry permit to be able to carry a firearm in a bag, in a car, or hidden on their person. But, in Pennsylvania, it is also legal to open carry.
I’ve had clients who have gotten the two a bit confused – thinking that they can keep their guns on their passenger seat or on the floor while their cruising on 79.
In a word: Wrong! If you were stopped for some minor reason (brake light might be out, or maybe you passed illegally), the police discover the gun, and you might be arrested and wondering who you need to call for bail. You must have a License to Carry Firearms to legally keep your gun in your car with you.
Gun charges are serious – and the issue of Second Amendment rights is so politically volatile – that I just wanted to share this to ensure that all of my law-abiding gun enthusiasts won’t need to rely on me or any other Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney to help get them out of a jam.
Last year, in an effort to make it easier for citizens to identify which states reciprocate Pennsylvania’s concealed carry permits, the state launched a website that allows gun owners to check the information before they travel. The site also lists which states Pennsylvania accepts concealed carry permits from.
There are 29 other states whose permits are recognized by Pennsylvania. Each of those has licensing restrictions that are at least as strict as those here in the Commonwealth, if not more so.
Two states – Alabama and Idaho were added to the list, and one – Virginia –was dropped.
In 12 states, Pennsylvania residents can concealed carry their guns if they have a permit in that state. They must apply for it separately.
In 32 states, a Pennsylvania resident’s concealed carry permit is accepted. Nine of those states don’t require a permit.