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Alaskan couple pay high price for failure to declare handgun

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February 09, 2016 - 8:00 PM

PENTICTON - An elderly Alaskan couple driving through British Columbia on their way home from more southern states ran afoul of Canadian law while crossing the 49th parallel in Osoyoos last year, a Penticton judge heard today.

Defence lawyer Ian McAndrews represented James Byron Sumner, 66, and his wife, Janet Louise, on charges stemming from an incident at the Osoyoos border crossing last year.

Crown Prosecutor Ginger Holmes described the circumstances of the May 25, 2015 incident to Judge Richard Hewson in a Penticton courtroom this morning, Feb.9.

The Sumners were travelling back to Alaska from Washington State last May in their truck and travel trailer when they were subject to primary inspection on the Canadian side of the Osoyoos border crossing.

The Sumners admitted to carrying a rifle during the inspection, but also stated they were not carrying any other weapons. The couple were flagged for secondary inspection, however, and border agents found .45 calibre ammunition in the couple’s trailer that did not belong with the long gun.

Further inspection revealed a Taurus .45 handgun in a storage closet in the trailer. Agents also found ammunition for the gun in the trailer.

The handgun was supposed to have been mailed to Sumner’s Alaskan address from a Wyoming address prior to Sumner’s departure from the U.S., but for reasons unknown, that never happened, border agents were told.

Further inspection of the contents of the unit turned up a holster and a pistol grip.

The Sumners were arrested for smuggling a handgun, amongst other charges. The gun was also a prohibited weapon in Canada due to its barrel length.

The Sumners were also travelling with three dogs, that were placed in kennels by the Sumners at the border while the customs agents carried out their duties. One of the dogs was accidentally released from its kennel, attacking an agent, who shot the dog, wounding its leg.

Both lawyers presented examples of case law in arguing for a sentence of between $3,000- $10,000 for one count of smuggling and one count of unauthorized possession of a firearm.

McAndrews argued his clients already suffered economic hardship as a result of the incident. Their dog was treated by an Osoyoos vet after being shot, and upon arriving home in Alaska, the dog required further treatment that cost $2,000.

In addition, it cost the Sumners $1,440 to get their truck back, and after being excluded from Canada as a result of the charges, it cost an additional $3,500 for ferry passage back to Alaska.

Their trailer, which had to be barged up the coast, cost an additional $9,000.

Judge Hewson noted through the examples of case law a common practise amongst American travellers to inadvertently have a gun in their vehicle, then either forget or overlook it when travelling across the border resulting in a panicked answer when questioned by border agents.

He noted in Sumners' case it was a single weapon where no deliberate attempt had been made to smuggle the weapon into the country. He sentenced James Sumner to a $3,000 fine, a 10-year firearm prohibition and a victim surcharge fee.

Charges against Janet Sumner and a further weapons charge against James Sumner were stayed.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
InfoTel News Ltd

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