An American who tried to smuggle a fully loaded handgun across the Canada-U.S. border at Osoyoos didn’t declare the weapon because he simply forgot it was tucked into his waistband, according to his lawyer.
Terry Hayes, 45, was arrested last year after admitting to border guards, who were about to search him, that he had the .357 revolver in his possession.
Hayes was fined $4,000 this week in provincial court in Penticton after pleading guilty to a single count of possession of a prohibited firearm.
“I don’t believe his story,” said Judge Greg Koturbash.
“I agree though that he probably panicked upon coming to the border.”
Koturbash, who also imposed a $600 victim surcharge, said anyone with a loaded, concealed handgun “is the definition of a dangerous person,” and “a very serious message has to be sent.”
Crown counsel Clarke Burnett told the court Hayes was headed north to Alaska when he arrived at the Osoyoos border crossing in his pickup truck around 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 31, 2013. He declared one rifle and one shotgun, but was flagged for secondary inspection.
As his truck was being checked outside, Hayes was taken into the Canada Border Services Agency office, where guards intended to search his person.
Once inside, Hayes “becomes nervous and starts to shake,” Burnett said, then told officers: “Oh, I forgot I had my handgun.”
Border guards immediately drew their weapons.
“It comes as a bit of a shock to the officers he’s in their office with a handgun,” Burnett said.
In addition to the fully loaded Smith & Wesson revolver, the Crown counsellor continued, officers also found in Hayes’ possession two “quick strips,” each with six hollow-point bullets attached.
Burnett asked for a “significant” fine of $5,000, “given, of course, our views on weapons, and, in particular, handguns.”
Defence counsel John Stowell suggested a $2,500 fine and explained that his client, a former military man who was not in the courtroom, simply forgot about the revolver.
Hayes, he said, was reaching over to unlock his passenger door before heading into the CBSA office when “he feels his firearm against his hip and he thinks, ‘uh-oh.'”
Stowell said his client got scared and planned to keep quiet about the handgun, get through the inspection, then turn around and head home to Walla Walla, Wash., to drop off the weapon before setting out again for Alaska.
“He’s a person of otherwise good character who made a big mistake,” Stowell said.