Warning of the danger of improperly stored firearms, a Nunavut judge has reversed a previous decision that didn’t impose a firearms prohibition on an offender.

“…firearm owners must turn their minds to proper storage at all times and make it a matter of habit,” Justice Susan Cooper wrote in her May 22 decision.

In her May 22 decision, Justice Susan Cooper ruled that an Iglulik man who had been drinking and left a loaded .22 rifle in his porch won’t be able to use firearms for three years.

The man routinely left the rifle under some clothes in the crawlspace of his home, where his wife and children also resided.

“This suggests not just a momentary lapse of judgment in the handling of the firearm but a lax attitude in general,” Cooper wrote. “Unfortunately, firearms are too often picked up and used improperly; most often when someone is drunk and distraught. Many of those incidents end without injury; some end tragically. In many of the cases, as in this case, the offender has little or no recollection of the incident. “It is for this reason that firearm owners must turn their minds to proper storage at all times and make it a matter of habit. The more layers and steps that a person has to go through to access their properly stored firearms and ammunition, the less likely it is that the firearm will be taken up in a drunken state.

“Firearm owners must know that instances of improper handling and storage of a firearm will be treated seriously by the court. They must know that the misuse of firearms carries with it not only the risk of a criminal record, but also the potential of forfeiture of the firearm itself and, perhaps most importantly, loss of the privilege to own and possess a firearm. It is this knowledge of the potential for serious consequences, including the loss of the ability to hunt and provide for family, that will hopefully deter firearm owners from handling and storing firearms without the utmost care and diligence.”

The offender had been found guilty of careless storage of a firearm during his court trial, but he was granted an absolute discharge, an outcome that the Crown appealed and Cooper found “inadequate” and lacking an explanation.

The man has a criminal record that included 2011 convictions for careless use of a firearm and possession of a firearm while prohibited.

“…the fact remains that the prior conviction showed a cavalier attitude towards firearms,” Cooper stated.

At the conclusion of the trial, the Crown sought a three-month conditional sentence, followed by six-to-nine months of probation, and a five-year firearms ban.

The defence lawyer requested a conditional discharge.

“I conclude that it would be contrary to the public interest to grant a discharge in the circumstances of this case and this offender,” Cooper wrote in her decision.

In addition to overturning the absolute discharge, Cooper entered a conviction and issued a suspended sentence and nine months probation. However, the probation order was stayed due to the length of time between Cooper’s appeal decision and the man’s January 2019 discharge.

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Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...