This story from the Vancouver Sun illustrates the inanity of the blind application of mandatory minimum sentences.
Two American tourists spent five days in jail, put up $50,000 each in bail and are facing three years behind bars after border guards seized a small arsenal of firearms at the U.S.-Canada border crossing last week.
Danny Cross, brother-in-law Hugh Barr and their wives were on their way to Alaska to celebrate Cross’s wedding anniversary when they were stopped at the Aldergrove-Huntington border crossing, 65 kilometres southeast of Vancouver, on July 11.
Cross is 64 and from Texas; Barr is 70 and from California.
The Canada Border Service Agency said that when officers searched their 2008 Winnebago after they said they had nothing to declare, the officers found a derringer-type pistol, a cowboy-style revolver, three semi-automatic pistols and a shotgun.
Their lawyer, Joel Whysall of Vancouver, has also raised the issue of the mandatory minimum sentence that the pair currently faces:
“These are people who have never been in trouble in their lives and they spent five days in the North Surrey Pre-Trial Centre with hardened criminals and drug addicts,” Whysall said.
“They were completely besides themselves and it took their wives five days to raise bail to get them out.”
The two were charged with a number of offences, including smuggling and possession of loaded, prohibited weapons, which carries a three-year minimum sentence.
“That charge is the major concern,” Whysall said. “It’s one of (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper’s minimum sentencing provisions which was never intended to deal with a situation like this.
“These are not hardened criminals and I’d be surprised if there was some nefarious gun smuggling thing going on here.”
Whysall said having firearms in Texas is a fact of life there.