Two Texas tourists found out the hard way earlier this month that while it may be easy and innocuous to bring your firearms with you on a road trip halfway across the continent to Maine, it gets more complicated if you try to go just a little further north.
That’s especially true if you neglect to tell Canadian border officials that you’re packing heat under your seat.
On Saturday, Aug. 13, a Murphy, Texas resident and his wife initially told Canada Border Services agents in St. Stephen that they had no firearms, according to the Canadian news reports. But a subsequent inspection of their camper trailer revealed a Bersa Thunder .380 handgun along with loose rounds in a Ziploc bag, a Smith and Wesson .38 Special, and a Rossi .357 Magnum. Border agents also found a 12-gauge shotgun and pepper spray, which is banned in Canada.
The following day, a couple from Aurora, Texas arrived at the same checkpoint and told CBSA officials they were not carrying weapons. However, after some ammunition was found in a sport-utility vehicle they were towing behind their motor home, the couple told agents they had a .40 Glock handgun in their motor home’s safe, news reports indicated.
A provincial court judge fined the first man $1,700 and the second $1,000.
“Their guns were destroyed, and both men were told to leave the country,” the Toronto Star reported.
The gun confiscations in St. Stephen, and similar incidents at other U.S-Canadian crossings, on Monday prompted Canadian border officials to issue a statement asking travelers from the U.S. to leave their firearms at home prior to trying to drive across the border.
“It is strongly recommended that you not carry your firearm when travelling to Canada and/or transiting through Canada to reach another U.S. destination,” Canadian Border Services Agency wrote in the statement. “However, should you choose to travel with your firearms, you must declare all firearms in your possession at the first Canadian designated port of entry. You must also have all the necessary permits and have your firearm appropriately stored.”
Canadian firearms laws are different from corresponding laws in the U.S., the statement indicated, and the consequences for not complying with Canadian firearms laws are clear.
“Failure to declare any firearm may lead to seizure action, penalty, prosecution in a court of law; and may make you inadmissible to Canada,” the agency wrote. “Your vehicle may also be seized and you will have to pay a penalty to get it back.
“We welcome our U.S. neighbors in Canada,” they added. “To make your journey more pleasant, travel light and always remember to declare all goods with you.”
It is true that Canada has more strict regulations about obtaining and possessing guns than does the U.S. but, to be fair, American officials have been known to take an equally dim view of Canadians who drive south across the border without declaring firearms in their vehicles.
Just ask Michel Jalbert. The resident of Pohenegamook, Quebec, just a stone’s throw from the Maine hamlet of Estcourt Station at the northernmost tip of the state, was arrested in October 2002 after he drove across the border to buy gas at a U.S. gas station less than 100 yards away.
Jalbert, who already had a minor criminal record, didn’t visit a U.S. border checkpoint down the road before making his gas purchase. Moreover, he had a shotgun he used for bird hunting in the back of his truck.
As he was heading back out the gas station driveway, the end of which lies in Canada, a U.S. Border Patrol agent stopped and arrested him. Jalbert was charged with illegal entry into the United States and being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm, prompting an international controversy and a frenzy of media coverage.
He was held in Maine jails for 35 days and later pleaded guilty to the felony firearm charge, which is expected to prevent him from being able to set foot in the U.S. ever again.