Sonya Deville should probably send Shaneen Allen a “thank you” card and some tickets to the next WWE event in the Philadelphia area, because if it wasn’t for her own run-in with New Jersey prosecutors nearly a decade ago the WWE star could have been facing some serious prison time for simply exercising her right to bear arms in self-defense.
Deville, whose real name is Daria Berenato, was arrested back in February and charged with unlawful possession of a weapon after her legally-owned pistol was discovered by a valet in her car at an Atlantic City casino. The wrestler could have faced more than a year in prison if she’d been convicted of the “crime” of bringing her lawfully possessed firearm from her home in Florida to the Garden State, but thanks to Shaneen Allen’s own court fight on similar charges back in 2014, Berenato was able to avoid prosecution by entering into a pre-trial diversion program.
Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury Jr. in Mays Landing approved her entry into the program on May 25, the prosecutor’s office said Wednesday, Dec. 27.
The prosecutor’s office said it consented to her admission based on a 2014 memo from the state Attorney General’s Office.
The memo makes entry into a diversion program “routine in cases with this fact pattern,” the prosecutor’s office noted in a statement.
The Attorney General’s memo on gun charges was prompted by a controversy one year earlier that also involved the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.
In that case, a Philadelphia woman faced the threat of a mandatory prison term, with at least 42 months before parole eligibility, for a similar gun-possession charge.
The woman, Shaneen Allen, was allowed into a diversion program after the memo’s release.
The 10-page memo said incarceration was “neither necessary nor appropriate” for “otherwise law-abiding persons who inadvertently violate New Jersey’s gun laws.”
It said those defendants must be under the “misimpression” that their possession of a weapon legal in their home state would also be lawful in New Jersey.
While I’m glad that Berenato won’t be going to jail for bringing her gun with her from her home in Florida to New Jersey, she shouldn’t have faced charges to begin with. What other rights, after all, did she supposedly give up when crossing the state line? Her First Amendment rights didn’t disappear when she saw the “Welcome to New Jersey” sign on the interstate. Her Fourth Amendment rights weren’t immediately nullified as soon as she entered the Garden State, so why should her Second Amendment rights disappear when she left her home state and traveled to another?
It’s possible, at least in theory, for out-of-state residents to obtain a New Jersey carry license, but I’d be willing to bet that the number of Florida firearm instructors who offer the New Jersey carry course is roughly zero, so even if Berenato had been aware that it was illegal under New Jersey law for her to bring her pistol into the state, it would have been incredibly difficult for her to obtain the training necessary for her to even apply for a carry license.
Berenato’s case has been resolved, but the issues with New Jersey’s carry laws still remain. At the moment, a California lawsuit might be the best hope of eventually changing the status quo in the Garden State and other anti-gun locales that don’t recognize any out-of-state licenses. Part of California Rifle & Pistol Association v. Los Angeles County Sheriff, et al is a challenge to California’s similarly screwy carry laws, which not only prohibit anyone from carrying without a California carry permit but preclude non-residents from applying for or receiving one. If the courts agree that the state’s prohibition violates the Second Amendment rights of non-residents who’d like to bear arms in self-defense in the state that could provide an opening to establish once and for all that our right to keep and bear arms doesn’t stop at the state line.