Supreme Court rules gun owners face penalties for ignorance of law

January 17, 2014 11:17 pm

January 17th, 2014 – Daniel Proussalidis, Toronto Sun


OTTAWA – Ignorance is no excuse when it comes to understanding details of legal gun transportation within Canada, the Supreme Court ruled Friday.

“The Supreme Court has now said: You mess up, you fail to understand what your authorization is about — that’s a mistake of law, it’s no defence, three-year mandatory minimum sentence,” lawyer Solomon Friedman said Friday.

The decision involves the case of Erin Lee MacDonald, who made his living in Calgary’s oilpatch, but ran into trouble while at his Halifax condo in 2009 as police were responding to a noise complaint at there.

When MacDonald opened the door, an officer saw something in the man’s hand, hidden behind his leg.

Fearing that MacDonald had a weapon, the officer burst in and disarmed MacDonald of a loaded handgun he was licensed to transport within Alberta, but not in Nova Scotia.

MacDonald was eventually convicted of careless use of a firearm and possession of a dangerous weapon, but an appeal court overturned a conviction of unlawful possession of a restricted firearm because MacDonald hadn’t understood that he wasn’t allowed to take his gun out of Alberta.

The case ended up before the Supreme Court, which issued a 4-3 decision Friday upholding MacDonald’s careless use and dangerous weapon convictions, but also restoring his unlawful possession conviction.

The court denied MacDonald a “defence of ignorance of the law” on the unlawful possession charge, and ordered the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to examine whether the three-year mandatory minimum sentence was constitutional.