Last year a young woman named Shaneen Allen purchased a handgun in Pennsylvania, where she lived, put the gun into her handbag, got into her car and drove over the Delaware River into New Jersey where she was pulled over in a routine traffic stop by a Jersey cop. One thing led to another, Ms. Allen admitted that she was carrying a handgun for which she had no legal permission to bring into New Jersey and worse, the gun was loaded with hollow-tip ammo which can’t be used by anyone in New Jersey, CCW-holder or not. Her case goes to trial later this year and, in the meantime, has become a cause celebre for the pro-gun community, who see in this incident the quintessential conflict between the armed citizen exercising her Second Amendment rights, and a capricious, arbitrary and anti-gun government trying to punish people who simply want to exercise their constitutional rights.
Wait a minute, you say. I thought the 2nd Amendment, as defined by the SCOTUS in the Heller and McDonald cases, allowed citizens to keep a loaded, unlocked gun in their homes for purposes of self-defense. Ms. Allen wasn’t in her home; she was driving in her car and she wasn’t anywhere near her home. In fact, she wasn’t even in her home state and everyone knows that the laws governing gun ownership and use are set by the state in which you live. Don’t believe me? Let’s consult the experts: “Many states and localities have laws governing the transportation of firearms. Travelers must be aware of these laws and comply with legal requirements in each jurisdiction.” And who says this? The NRA, that’s who says it.
Don’t get me wrong. Wasn’t it Charles Dickens who said “the law is an ass” in Oliver Twist? Giving Ms. Allen anything more than a slight wrist-slap because she “broke” a law wouldn’t do anything to stop the endless flow of illegal guns between Philadelphia and New Jersey, a situation that has reached epidemic proportions in Camden and other South Jersey towns. But the legal problems created by Ms. Allen wouldn’t exist at all if we simply ignored what the SCOTUS said in Heller-McDonald and pretended that the 2nd Amendment said something that it really doesn’t say.
The reason that the NRA and other pro-gun groups have been venting their collective spleens at the treatment of Ms. Allen is because what they really want is to extend the 2nd Amendment to cover concealed-carry outside the home, whether the SCOTUS or any other court agrees with them or not. Right now there are five different legal cases covering aspects of CCW that have reached the Circuit level but so far the SCOTUS hasn’t revealed whether it will hear any of these cases or not. Incidentally, the score is running 3-2 against the notion that the 2nd Amendment guarantees a law-abiding citizen the right to carry a gun outside the home. And if one of these cases were ever to be put on the SCOTUS docket, and were the SCOTUS to reaffirm its Heller-McDonald rulings that legal guns have to remain within the home, this would create a pretty large dent in the side of the CCW express that the NRA has been running down the tracks over the last twenty years.
But there’s another way the NRA can skin the CCW cat without risking a losing legal fight, and it looks like Wayne LaPierre and his friends are just hoping that a Republican congressional majority in 2015 will deliver the goods. I am referring to the scheme, first proposed in 1997 by then-Senator Larry (“bathroom boy”) Craig, to nationalize CCW by passing a federal law that would make a concealed-carry permit issued by any state valid from sea to shining sea. The proposed legislation is routinely introduced and just as routinely defeated every year, but it’s high on the NRA wish-list this time around, and whether she likes it or not, Shaneen Allen’s become the NRA’s poster-child to try and get it done. Just imagine the joy in Fairfax, VA, if a CCW license would be treated no differently than a driver’s license in all 50 states. Just imagine…