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South Philly mom pardoned from N.J. gun charge

Shaneen Allen no longer has to worry about an unlawful-weapon charge for a handgun she legally owns.

Gov. Chris Christie (left) signs the pardon for Shaneen Allen. (GOV. CHRISTIE'S OFFICE, ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ/FILE PHOTO)
Gov. Chris Christie (left) signs the pardon for Shaneen Allen. (GOV. CHRISTIE'S OFFICE, ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ/FILE PHOTO)Read more

A PISTOL PACKIN' mama from South Philly is free and clear for the first time in nearly two years.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie yesterday pardoned Shaneen Allen, 27, a single mother of two who gained national attention after she was hit with an unlawful-weapon charge for a gun she legally owns during a 2013 car stop in Hamilton Township, Mercer County.

"She fought a hard fight, but she stood her ground," Evan Nappen, a gun-rights lawyer who represents Allen, said yesterday. "If anyone is deserving of a pardon from the governor, it's Shaneen."

Yesterday, amid the whirlwind of her daily errands, Allen expressed relief at the news of the pardon, and said she's looking forward to moving on with her life. She declined to elaborate further.

Allen, who has a Pennsylvania carry permit for the .380 Bersa Thunder handgun at the center of her case, was in the middle of a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders that spared her from the mandatory 3 1/2-year prison sentence attached to the gun charge.

She had argued since her arrest that she didn't know New Jersey's stringent gun-control laws don't recognize permits from other states.

In fact, when Allen was pulled over by a state police officer while en route to Atlantic City to celebrate her son Sincere's birthday, she voluntarily told him the gun was in her purse and showed him her permit.

"I thought it was like a driver's license," she told the Daily News last year. "I didn't know."

Prosecutors charged Allen - who has no criminal record and bought the gun for protection after two violent muggings in South Philly - with unlawful possession of a weapon and unlawful possession of hollow-point bullets. The ammunition is legal in Pennsylvania, but not in the Garden State.

Last fall, she refused to take a plea bargain and was set to go to trial when the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office overturned its initial decision to bar her from the pretrial intervention program.

It was a small victory, Nappen said, but an important one: The state's decision to allow her into the program set a precedent that has since helped 100 other, similar cases in New Jersey, he said.

But the pardon is the real victory, one Nappen said he fought hard for even after Allen had been entered into the intervention program, which she has been freed from.

She'll soon get her Bersa back, he said. Or, if she so desires, she can take the gun manufacturer up on its offer for a free, brand-new weapon.