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Langley man loses appeal to have gun prohibition reduced

Langley resident James Dean Wagner lost an appeal to have a 10-year gun prohibition reduced, after he was sentenced for waving a gun around his street and  threatening people.

It was about 9 p.m. on Jan. 30, 2011, Wagner was involved in a crash in Langley, according to the judgment written by B.C. Appeals Court Justice Harris. When a Langley RCMP officer spoke to Wagner at the crash scene, he smelled alcohol on Wagner’s breath. Wagner blew into a breathalyzer. Wagner’s vehicle was then towed away and he was driven to his home in Langley.

About two hours later, the police received calls that Wagner was outside his house, behaving erratically in the street and forcing cars to swerve to avoid hitting him, said the courts document.

“Wagner, who was drunk, had, it appears, become very angry because the police had towed his vehicle,” it said in the appeal judgement.

At some point during the incident, Wagner reached for a .22 calibre hunting rifle. It was unloaded. When he grabbed the rifle, he made angry threats about killing the police officer who had had his vehicle towed.

One of the other occupants in his house quickly took the rifle from Wagner. It’s believed he then took a baseball bat and was “trashing stuff” outside the house and threatening people, said the court documents.

When the police arrived, they found 20 rounds of ammunition on Wagner as well as a total of five rifles in the house and 80 rounds of ammunition in all. The guns were all described as family relics, passed along by Wagner’s father, and appear to have been used for hunting. Their registrations had expired.

In a statement to the police, Wagner acknowledged that he had been very angry, he had been drinking, and that he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. He told the police he did not know what he was going to do with the gun, but admitted that he could not say for sure that he would not have done something dangerous with it. He did not load it, however. He said he did not remember everything about the incident because he had blacked out with anger.

This was Wagner’s first offense.

Wagner pleaded guilty to a charge of careless use, carrying or handling a firearm and unauthorized possession of a firearm for what took place on Jan. 30, 2011.

He received a suspended sentence, two years probation, to which a number of conditions attached, and a victim surcharge. In respect of the charge of careless use or handling of a firearm, he was also subject to a discretionary firearm prohibition of 10 years.

This is the maximum prohibition that can be ordered under this section of the Criminal Code.

This was the only aspect of his sentence that he sought to appeal, arguing that given the circumstances of the offence and his own personal circumstances, the prohibition is unduly harsh and should be reduced to five years or less.

In his appeal, he points to his personal circumstances, particularly the importance of hunting and fishing in his family life, based around farming.

The Supreme Court Judge concluded that Wagner’s reaction in reaching for a gun in circumstances when he was upset and agitated posed a danger to public safety and to himself.

“In all of the circumstances, given the legitimate concerns raised by Wagner’s conduct that night and the risks that they suggest are posed for the future, it was open to the judge to impose the maximum length of prohibition,” said Justice Harris. “I cannot conclude that the judge committed any error in principle in imposing a 10-year firearms prohibition. It was but one element of a sentence that when viewed overall was manifestly fit.”

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