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Border laws ‘criminalize good people’

Peace Arch border crossing - file photo
Peace Arch border crossing
— image credit: file photo

A man who pleaded guilty to smuggling and possession of a prohibited weapon has been fined $5,000 in connection with the offences.

But the lawyer for Robert Paul Cominos says his client is among many U.S. residents who are being penalized by a Canadian law that is catching the wrong bad guys.

Cominos, said Craig Sicotte, was legally entitled to carry the loaded .40-calibre pistol – concealed, even – that was found in the glove box of his car last spring – just not in Canada.

“They’re licensed to carry (in Washington),” Sicotte said of Cominos and one other recent client charged with similar offences. “It just doesn’t apply in Canada.”

Cominos was arrested April 24 at the Douglas (Peace Arch) border, after he told guards about a Styr Mannlicher and ammunition in the glove box of his vehicle. The magazine was loaded with 10 rounds, and had the capacity to hold more.

Arrested and turned over to Surrey RCMP, Cominos pleaded guilty last month in Surrey Provincial Court. A fine of $2,500 was imposed for each count, and he was ordered to provide a DNA sample.

Sicotte said another client, also licensed to carry in Washington, was fined $4,000.

Noting Cominos is currently doing work with the military in Afghanistan, Sicotte said his client is hardly a threat to Canadians.

“He’s over helping the troops and we’re criminalizing him.”

Canada Border Services Agency officials confirmed earlier this month that the majority of firearms seized at the borders – 500 this year, as of last month – are taken from U.S. residents who don’t declare their weapons.

“Most… are the personal firearms of U.S. travellers who neglected to declare their personal firearms,” spokesperson Stefanie Wudel said by email, noting the laws are firm.

“All travellers must declare any firearms and weapons in their possession when they enter Canada. Anyone who does not declare them upon arrival can be charged for the smuggling or trafficking of firearms into Canada.”

This year in the Pacific Region – which includes the Douglas and Pacific Highway ports – guards have made 129 firearms seizures so far, including of handguns, shotguns, rifles and semi-automatic pistols.

And, CBSA’s criminal investigations section has recommended charges in 18 firearms-smuggling cases.

The case against one other U.S. resident also wrapped up Oct. 23. Marvin Lynn Anderson was ordered in Surrey Provincial Court to pay $5,000 for each of two firearms-related charges – gun smuggling and possession of a restricted firearm – that resulted from his June 28, 2011 arrest at the Pacific Highway border. Guards had found an unloaded .38-calibre pistol and a magazine with five rounds of ammunition in a duffel bag on the front passenger seat of a northbound vehicle.

At least one other case will be making its way through the court system in the coming months. Last month, border guards at Pacific Highway seized a 9mm Sig Sauer P226 Elite and three high-capacity magazines from the cab of a traveller’s tractor. One traveller was arrested and turned over to Surrey RCMP.

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