The man, Louis DiNatale, has been charged with gun smuggling because he had one small pistol in his car.
“There’s not even a traffic ticket in my background,” DiNatale, a retired US Army sergeant major told The National Post. “Why would I come to Canada to bring a small weapon to smuggle in?”
DiNatale and his wife accidently strayed into Ontario during a trip to Vermont in September. During the trip, DiNatale put a Bersa .380 pistol in the center console of his wife’s BMW. The pistol was located by customs officers from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), who searched the vehicle on the Thousand Islands Bridge over the Saint Lawrence River.
Honest Mistake Leads to Arrest
DiNatale had never planned to go to Canada, which has strict gun control laws. Instead he and his wife got lost by following their GPS system while driving to Vermont on Interstate 81. He also said that he hadn’t intended to bring the gun on the trip, and had put it in the car and forgot about it. He normally puts a gun in his car for self-defense, but had placed it in his wife’s car days earlier because he was travelling to a military base in his car and didn’t want to hassle with any questions. Then he forgot about it.
The arrest apparently began after an altercation between DiNatale and customs agents on the bridge. When he realized he was in Canada, DiNatale asked if he could go back to New York. Instead, agents began asking him about guns.
“I told him I was retired military, I had respect for weapons, and I had a concealed carry license to do so,” DiNatale said he told the agents. “He asked me when was the last time I had a weapon on me. I told him, ‘Earlier that week.’ He asked me again, ‘Why?’ I told him it was my right as an American citizen to do so.”
After that conversation, agents ordered DeNatale and his wife out of their car and detained them while the vehicle was searched. After the gun was found, DiNatale was arrested, handcuffed and held for four days until he could make bail.
Officers charged him with smuggling a gun into Canada and lying about it. He could face up to three years in prison if convicted of the crime. DiNatale is now free on bail and back home in Louisville, Kentucky.
Facing Three Years in Jail for Carrying Legal Gun
Crown prosecutors (the Canadian equivalent of US attorneys) have been unwilling to cut DiNatale any slack, his defense attorney, Bruce Enge,l told The National Post. Engel contends that DiNatale simply make a mistake.
Story continues below video
“It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that someone would forget a gun in their car,” Engel said. “It’s no different than leaving a pair of hockey skates in your car up here.”
When asked why officers and prosecutors singled DiNatale out, Engel accused the CBSA of targeting Americans. The lawyer also blamed antigun sentiments for the incident.
Zero Tolerance for Guns
“They’re trying to make a general blanket statement to American citizens: Don’t mess with our borders,” Engel said of CBSA in a statement to The Los Angeles Times.
“Bruce, when it comes to guns, it’s kind of a zero-tolerance policy,” Engel said a crown prosecutor had told him about DiNatale’s case.
That policy contradicts the official policy outlined at CBSA’s website, according to The Los Angeles Times. Americans can bring up to three firearms to Canada as long as they meet the requirements of Canadian law, declare the weapons and pay a $25 fee. Automatic weapons and silencers and some magazines are illegal in Canada.
The outcome of this case is not clear, but DiNatale told The Times that he intends to return to Canada, face the charges and clear his name.
There have been cases of legal gun owners being harassed by law enforcement while driving in the United States. As Off The Grid News reported, Florida resident John Filippidis claims his family was detained for 90 minutes because police in Maryland learned he had a concealed carry permit.