College Student Kraig Jacobson Detained at Canada Border For Not Declaring Handgun

Kraig Jacobson (source: change.org)

A 26-year-old man from Alpine, Utah was arrested at the Canada-U.S. border and faces up to 6 months in prison for initially forgetting to declare he was in possession of a handgun during a routine border screening, The Salt Lake City Tribune reports. To be clear, he isn’t accused of possessing a handgun illegally.

Kraig Jacobson was arrested on July 16 and as of Tuesday, he remains stuck in Canada, awaiting a jury trial in 2013.

Jacobson and his brother Kevin set off on a six-week motorcycle trek across the country to raise money for the American Cancer Society when they crossed a bridge and entered Canada. The brothers ended up camping in the wilderness many nights — Jacobson said he brought his handgun for protection from bears and other animals.

His father, Gordon Jacobson, says the ordeal has been a nightmare for his son.

So, here’s how it all went down. Jacobson was reportedly detained at the border and asked if he had any items to “declare,” Gordon Jacobson told The Salt Lake Tribune. Though Jacobson first told the officer no, shortly after he remembered to inform a second officer that his handgun was locked in the trunk of his seat before they began searching it.

“He had been riding all day in the heat, and he was kind of dehydrated and stressed out and said no,” Gordon Jacobson explained, adding that shortly after his son “came to his senses” and told the second officer. However, by then, “It was too late,” he said.

An initial gun charge was dropped, but Jacobson is now being charged with “smuggling with malicious intent” and lying to a border official. The two charges together carry a four- to six-month prison term.

The Tribune has more details on the case:

Jacobson, a Utah Valley University business major, was arrested on the spot, and his family initially thought what they called an honest mistake would just turn into a fine and a deportation, but it was far worse.

“Kraig recognizes his mistake,” his father said, and knows he needs to pay the consequence but doesn’t think the penalty should be so stiff.

“It seems to me a year out of his life is a little ridiculous,” he said. “There is no tolerance on the Canadian side for making an honest mistake. They will throw the book at you.”

Gordon Jacobson said he first found out about his son’s predicament from family members when Kraig’s brother posted on Facebook that his brother was in a Canadian jail.

Jacobson spent July 25 to Aug. 3 inside the Niagara Detention Centre on an immigration hold, according to Ontario Canada Sgt. Dyson. It is a jail where hardened criminals are booked in the same facility as with those dealing with immigration issues.

When Jacobson was released on bail, he found some friends of the family to stay with, but he can’t leave the province until after his jury trial in January 2013.

“He is stuck in a country where he can’t leave and can’t hold a job,” Gordon Jacobson explained.

A petition website, titled “Canadian Government: Release Kraig Jacobson,” has been launched for Jacobson by one of his friends asking for prosecutors in Canada to release him and let him come home. The petition currently has 995 supporters.

“It may not change Kraig’s outlook,” his father said about the petition. “But I would I like it to help solve problems for others traveling to Canada.”

Jacobson turns 27 on Wednesday. Pending a miracle, he will spend it in Canada instead of enjoying it with his family and friends, uncertain when he will be back in his own bed.

Choking back tears, his father told The Tribune: “We try to keep our game faces on, but it is hard not having him around.”

The opinions found in the commenter section of The Tribune’s website are extremely diverse:

“I do not believe Mr. Kraig’s mistake was an honest one.  Intentionally packing a gun and failing report it at a border point is not an honest mistake.  Stupid, yes.  Honest, no,” one commenter wrote.

“I personally know Kraig’s brother, who was on the trip with him, and I’m completely assured this wasn’t a case of stupidity. Anyone of us could have done it if we’d been a little less than informed. Instead of spouting all your judgmental filth all over cyber space, take a minute to put yourself in Kraig’s shoes,” another person posted.

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