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B.C. boy, 13, brings loaded gun to school, gets 6 months ‘custodial’ sentence

Boy told principal he ‘thought it would be cool to show people,’ judge says

A 13-year-old Surrey boy who brought a loaded handgun to his school has been dealt a six-month “custodial sentence served in the community” to be followed by six months probation.

The boy, whose identity is shielded by the Youth Criminal Justice Act, pleaded guilty to possessing a loaded restricted firearm without holding a licence.

Surrey provincial court Judge Satinder Sidhu found that while he “exercised extremely poor decision-making and judgment, there is no evidence that he had any malicious intent or nefarious purpose in taking the gun to school. The consensus is that (the boy) took the gun to impress others and to post on social media.”

Th court heard that on Nov. 18, 2022 the boy brought a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun to his Surrey high school, the name of which has not been revealed. It was stashed in his backpack, he passed it to a friend, posted photos on social media and shot it in a wooded area.

The Crown sought a six-month deferred custody and supervision order, a custodial sentence served in the community, followed by a six-month probation order while the boy’s lawyer argued for either an absolute discharge or conditional discharge.

After he got caught, the court heard, the boy told his principal he brought the gun to school because he “thought it would be cool to show people,” Sidhu noted.

Police seized the gun, which was registered to his father and had a 10-round magazine containing nine bullets. The boy at the time had a Minor Possession’s Licence for Firearms which allows children 12 to 17 years old to borrow non-restricted firearms and use them “in accordance with the supervisory conditions attached to the licence.”

Sidhu noted that the boy, now 14, has been raised in a “stable home,” that he and his family are “deeply devoted to the Sikh faith,” and he and his dad are close and have gone to a gun range together. All of his dad’s 25 lawfully owned guns have been seized by police since the school incident, the judge noted, with “the cooperation” of his family.

The boy says he secretly took the gun and ammo from his father’s safe without consent and took it to school to impress people, Sidhu noted.

“Although there does not appear to be any malicious or nefarious reason in (the boy) bringing the gun to school, I am unable to agree with the proposition that the offence and the decision to take the gun to school was impulsive,” the judge noted in her reasons for sentencing. “Rather, his comments demonstrate that he planned to take the handgun to school and had a purpose in doing so. His actions were deliberate and intended to achieve that purpose.”

She also noted the gun could have been accidentally discharged when he let another student handle it. The boy, she found, “expressed remorse for the harm caused by his actions.”

Nevertheless, Sidhu decided, “I do not agree that an absolute discharge or even a conditional discharge is appropriate.

“I further conclude that nothing other than a custodial sentence will achieve the purpose and principles of sentencing. The community would find it shocking that a young person would take his father’s handgun and ammunition from a locked safe without consent; conceal the loaded handgun in a backpack; take the gun to his high school, which has over 1800 students and staff; show other students the handgun and pass the loaded firearm to another; shoot a bullet from the handgun; and then, conceal the gun again in his backpack, which he took to his classes,” Sidhu said.

”The circumstances are disturbing, and to say that the risk of harm to others by the young person’s conduct was significant is an understatement. Having a loaded firearm in a public place, like a school, is a very dangerous endeavour. It strikes fear in the heart of students, parents and the community members, particularly in a climate where firearms in schools are no longer isolated events. The circumstances of his offence are so aggravated that any lesser sanction than a custodial sentence would fail to reflect societal values.”

The sentence is technically referred to as a “deferred custody and supervision order.” He is not to be within 50 metres of the school, must attend counselling, and must not possess any weapon “as defined by the Criminal Code.”

He must also participate in a restorative justice program.

“I have to advise you that if you fail to abide by any of these conditions, you will find yourself back before the court and there will be a review of this order. Okay? And there may be custody that will be involved,” Sidhu told the boy.

He must also complete 20 hours of community work. There was no mention of a curfew in the judge’s reasons for sentencing.

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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