Philadelphia mother whose legal gun got her arrested in NJ hopes for leniency

A young Philadelphia mother, hit with gun charges in New Jersey after being caught during a traffic stop with the firearm she carries legally in her home state, is hoping for leniency from the judge in the case, she tells

Shaneen Allen, 27, who is facing three years in prison, said Thursday she remains “very much worried” about her future and her two sons, Niaire, 10, and Sincere, 3, since being charged with unlawful possession of a weapon — a .380 Bersa Thunder handgun — and possession of hollow-point bullets after making an unsafe lane change in New Jersey’s Atlantic County on Oct. 1.

“I’m very much worried because I have two kids who depend on me,” Allen said. “And I’m doing this all by myself. It’s just me.”


Allen, who has no prior criminal record, said she acquired the gun legally just a week prior to her arrest. She was headed to Atlantic City, N.J., in the early-morning hours to prepare for her son’s birthday party, which was being held three days later.

“I was bringing a cake and the dog to the hotel room to surprise him,” she said. “That’s what I was doing out there and I got pulled over at 1 in the morning because I was sleepy and I swerved.”

Allen purchased the gun for protection after being robbed twice in the past year, she said, adding that she never even fired it and feels somewhat snake-bitten by the entire ordeal.

“It’s definitely a freak thing,” she said. “I was trying to do a good thing and it turned out so bad — and just like that. I don’t know how to explain it, I really don’t.”

Allen reiterated that she immediately told the officer she had a gun in her 2007 Chevrolet sedan, as well as a concealed carry permit for neighboring Pennsylvania.

“The officer knew there was a gun there, she was completely honest and open,” her attorney, Evan Nappen, said. “There are no aggravating factors in this case; she’s a single mom of two, working in the medical field who was robbed twice and that’s what inspired her to get a gun license in the first place.”

Nappen said potential jurors could invoke jury nullification, a constitutional doctrine allowing juries to acquit defendants who are technically guilty, but don't deserve to be punished. It can apply in all states, but attorneys are generally not permitted to introduce the concept to jurors.

Allen said the hollow-point bullets were purchased at the suggestion of a gun dealer, who pointed out they were roughly $8 cheaper per box than other ammunition.

“They’re more destructive, but they’re not illegal,” she said. “I don’t know why people are making a big deal out of that — all bullets kill.”

Allen acknowledged, however, that she and all gun owners need to be aware of federal and state laws.

“I wish I was more aware of the law,” she said. “And to anyone out there looking to purchase a firearm, know the law. I didn’t even get the chance to understand the laws. I only had it [the gun] a week.”

Jay McKeen, public information officer for the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office, said Allen has a pre-trial conference scheduled for Aug. 5. Prosecutor James McClain declined to comment on the matter, McKeen said.

Despite a lack of a criminal record, Nappen said Allen was not accepted into a diversionary program that would allow her to avoid jail time altogether. They both are hoping that a judge will see the matter in a different light.

“I just want people to know that if you look at it through my eyes, mistakes happen,” Allen told “I just hope that everything turns out OK for me and my kids because I’m all they have.”