A member of the American Armed Services who tried to cross the Abbotsford border with two handguns last May should not be jailed for what was an obvious mistake, a provincial court judge has ruled.
Judge Ronald Caryer said Staff Sgt. Ditrek Lamone Mack, who has had four tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, believed it was legal to carry guns into Canada as long as he was leaving within 24 hours.
According to provincial court documents, Mack, his wife and their three children were crossing at the Sumas border on May 1, 2011, on their way to Alaska, where he had been transferred.
Mack did not disclose that the guns were in the car, but the vehicle was searched and two loaded Taurus PT firearms were found: one in the console and one in a bag.
Mack had purchased the guns in Georgia, where he was stationed, through the army/air force exchange.
The guns were seized, and Mack was charged with smuggling goods into Canada, unauthorized possession of a firearm and possession of a prohibited firearm with ammunition.
He pleaded guilty, and his sentencing hearing was held recently in Abbotsford provincial court.
In his ruling, Caryer noted the cultural distinction between the use of firearms in Canada and the U.S.
“We are not a gun culture here … We have very strict rules about how they (guns) are to be stored … That is inconsistent with the cultural values that Americans place on the right to bear arms.”
He also commented on the role that the “proliferation of guns” has played in recent gang shootings – including the death of Jonathan Bacon in Kelowna last summer.
However, he acknowledged that Mack’s intention was not to smuggle guns into Canada for criminal use, and he had a stellar reputation as a decorated member of the American army.
Caryer said he did not want to sentence Mack to any jail time, as he would then be unable to serve in the army, including an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
“He is a person that we all owe a great debt of gratitude and thanks for going and representing the allies in the fight against terrorism,” Caryer said.
“He has committed a criminal act, but it is a one-off and it is done basically by mistake.”
The guns and ammunition were forfeited for destruction, and Mack was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition in Canada for five years. He was also given a $500 fine.