For those traveling outside of Pennsylvania this holiday season and who enjoy the security of carrying their firearm–WAIT! Please understand that you just can’t jump in your vehicle with your gun and hit the road, especially if you're headed over the bridge into the states of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey or New York! Never assume that distance matters when it comes to handgun reciprocity. The laws are very different when you leave the Commonwealth!
A Out of State Permit Isn’t a Defense But It May Help If You Are Arrested for Illegal Possession of Gun or Firearm
Ignorance isn’t a defense and neither is the need to protect your family, your property or expensive gifts for family and friends! While most judges and even prosecutors may somewhat empathize with parent or guardian who offers this as an excuse, it may not do much to change a criminal charge. While many states including New Jersey do consider an out of state permit as possible mitigation to a crime, a convicted person still faces a possible criminal record and at the very least an arrest record. A permit, however, will make it much more likely that a New Jersey Prosecutor will consider a disposition of your offense through program like Pre-Trial Intervention or a Waiver of the Graves Act Mandatory Minimum Sentences (42 Months)
Shall Issue vs. May Issues Jurisdictions
Pennsylvania is a “shall issue” state whereas New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Connecticut, are “may issue” states that sometimes really just means that you can’t get a permit to carry a handgun in either of them! While Delaware is a “may issue” state, in practice, it operates as a “shall issue” jurisdiction. There are other “may issue” jurisdictions like Delaware such as California and Alabama. In addition, there are “no issue” jurisdictions of Illinois, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia that simply don’t allow citizens to carry concealed handguns.
The following are “Shall issue” jurisdictions: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Pennsylvania has reciprocity with all of these jurisdictions but traveling into “may issue” or “no issue” states with gun is an extremely serious crime! At the very least, the police officer is obligated to arrest you which will really put a dent in your Holidays Plans.
Illegal Possession of a Firearm in New Jersey – Mandatory Minimum Sentences
In the Garden State, New Jersey assumes that a defendant doesn’t possess a license, permit, or is not registered until the defendant establishes the contrary. While this would appear to shift the burden of proof in a criminal prosecution, the New Jersey Supreme Court has upheld it as constitutional. See State v. Ingram. While the accused person must establish proof of a permit or license, the prosecution must still meet the burden of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt with regards to the actual possession of the weapon or firearm. See NJSA 2c:39-5.
If a person is convicted under New Jersey statute 2C:39-5(b), he or she is guilty of a second degree offense. A judge has no discretion and must sentence you to a term of 5-10 years in New Jersey state prison. You are ineligible for parole for at least three years and so you have to serve the minimum of three years of this sentence. If it is your second attempt you are looking at a 5-10 year mandatory minimum sentence with no parole eligibility until that 5 year minimum.
For more information about gun laws in Pennsylvania, visit my free download section and read a copy of my book—What Everyone Needs to Know About Guns, Drugs & Defense Lawyers in Pennsylvania.