October 06, 2016 - 10:59 AM
SAINT JOHN, N.B. - Prosecutors say it has happened about once a week since June: American retirees, usually from the South, try to cross the Canadian border in New Brunswick with a gun. Or several guns. Or guns and pepper spray. Sometimes stun guns, too.
This week, federal prosecutor Peter Thorn said he told Saint John provincial court on Wednesday that the strikingly familiar story played out twice more on Monday.
Robert Ted Yarberry of Arkansas and David Thomas Falvey of Florida arrived at the border, separately, just a few hours apart.
Thorn said both men were in their mid-60s. Both were tourists travelling with their wives. Both told border agents they were carrying no prohibited weapons.
Yarberry, a retired teacher and home inspector, told the agent he had left his gun at his hotel in Calais, Maine, for a day trip to New Brunswick. A secondary search of his van, though, found a Glock handgun in a holster under his seat, its magazine loaded but the chamber empty, said Thorn.
Falvey arrived a few hours later, also denying he was carrying weapons in his motor home. On secondary inspection, an agent found five cans of pepper spray, four stun guns and a handgun under his bed. Asked about the gun, Falvey asked if that was the one under his sink, so the agents found and seized that gun too.
Both men pleaded guilty to failing to declare weapons and making false statements.
Thorn told Judge Alfred Brien that since June, about one American a week has appeared in court in New Brunswick for bringing guns across the border and misleading agents about it.
Addressing both men, the judge reportedly told them to warn their friends back home.
"You travel to another country, you had better learn the laws of that country," Brien said, according to a report in the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. "The message has got to get out."
Falvey was fined $2,300 on top of a $6,500 civil penalty, while Yarberry was fined $2,000 along with a $1,000 civil penalty. Both were deported, Thorn told The Canadian Press.
Thorn said most of the cases he's seen this summer involve motorists from the southern U.S., although one September case involved a man from Ohio. On one weekend in August, two Texas men separately tried to bring hidden guns across at St. Stephen.
The Canadian Border Services Agency says such seizures are common.
Last year, the CBSA seized seven guns at two crossings in St. Stephen, up from five the previous year, it said. Nationally, it seized 671 firearms last year, 313 of which were prohibited in Canada, mostly in Ontario and B.C.
"In terms of this particular summer, I don't know what to attribute it to, whether we were receiving more tourists now that the dollar has gone down," Thorn said.
Most people are fined between $1,500 and $2,500, and face a civil penalty for the return of their vehicle, imposed at the border, he said. They also forfeit their guns.
"These people are (otherwise) law-abiding people who are financially stable and retired in most cases and would be generating good tourism revenue for, in our case, Atlantic Canada," Thorn said.
"You wonder what the word of mouth will be going back ... whether they're saying, 'Don't go to Canada.'"
The CBSA would not say whether it is more likely to do secondary searches of travellers from states with more liberal gun laws.
— By Rob Roberts in Halifax
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016