Monday, 11 October 2004
by Matthew Stuart and Cyril Doll
Bruce Montague, a member of the Canadian Unregistered Firearms Owners Association, has been
challenging police to arrest him
under the controversial Firearms Act for more than a year. He marched on Parliament Hill on New
Year's Day 2003 with an
unregistered firearm in his hand. But it was his alleged violation of the Criminal Code that
finally brought the law down on him at a
Dryden, Ont., gun show on Sept. 11.
Montague, of Rugby Township, near Dryden, and his 12-year-old daughter Katey were attending a gun
show in town when he
was arrested by six plainclothes police officers. The Ontario Provincial Police charged the
gunsmith with two counts of
unauthorized possession of firearms, two counts of careless storage of a firearm, failure to use
reasonable care with an explosive,
and unlawful possession of an explosive. Cops later laid two additional charges: tampering with a
serial number of a firearm and
possession of a gun for the purpose of trafficking.
After Montague's wife, Donna, hurried to the show upon receiving a call that Katey had been left
alone following her father's
arrest, she was confronted by OPP officer Don Cunningham, who instructed the mother to come to
the station. "I assumed it was
to pick up Bruce," she says. Once there, with two of her children in tow, the 44-year-old woman
was charged with unauthorized
possession of firearms and careless storage of firearms, and the kids were taken to a waiting
room while their mother was
interrogated. "It almost sounded as though they thought we were terrorists," she says. Before she
could call a lawyer, she says
she was released from custody, but was told she could not go home until police had finished
searching her house, which is also
where Bruce operates his gunsmith shop. When she requested a copy of the search warrant for her
home, she says she was told
she couldn't have one. "That's bullshit," says Richard Fritze, a criminal lawyer in Delburne,
Alta., who specializes in cases brought
under the Firearms Act. "It's a public document. The press can get it--why can't they?" Criminal
lawyer Ed Burlew, of Thornhill,
Ont., who has been retained by CUFOA to represent Bruce, says that as a matter of course, cops
will not only show the search
warrant to the suspect, but ask for their co-operation. They know it's usually easier if the
owner of the home knows what you are
looking for, because often they will "open doors instead of you having to kick them down," says
Burlew. The judge has since
sealed the warrant entirely.
Montague's supporters in the community and in the gun-rights movement are demanding to know why
cops felt the need to
ambush the owner of Monty's Gunsmithing in a way they see as extremely heavy-handed--particularly
when Montague has no
criminal record and, his wife says, "has never been in a fistfight." (Donna claims the explosives
charges stem from some dynamite
the family keeps, which they use to destroy beaver dams.) When contacted by the Western Standard,
Cunningham, the arresting
officer, refused comment on the proceedings of the investigation. Diane Harder, media relations
officer for Dryden's OPP
detachment, did not return repeated phone calls.
Hudson says cops targeted Montague for a reason. "The regional firearms control officer has been
on Bruce's case several times
about having unregistered firearms that come into the shop for maintenance and repairs," Hudson
says. "And Bruce has always
said that he is not going to act as the police, so Bruce has been on the crap list of this
firearms control officer for about a year and
In fact, some may see Montague's arrest as a sign of things to come for gunsmiths and gun shop
proprietors in Ontario. Michael
Bryant, the Ontario attorney general, is a vocal supporter of strict gun control laws. "We need
to stop the flow of guns to the
streets through theft from gun shops or gun clubs," Bryant told reporters in March, in the wake
of an outbreak of gang violence in
Toronto. But David Tomlinson, legal committee chairman for the National Firearms Association,
says that those types of break-ins
rarely happen. "Criminals are very leery of gunsmiths and gun shops because they're afraid that
one of the guns might be loaded
and, of course, that's very hazardous for a criminal," says Tomlinson.
At a Sept. 20 bail hearing, the judge ruled in favour of the Crown's motion to deny Montague bail
while police continue to search
his home. "What they were saying is that they're not going to let him out of jail until he coughs
up everything that they knew that
he had owned at one time," says Ed Hudson, a member of CUFOA and a Saskatoon veterinarian, who
was present at the bail
hearing. Burlew says that many of the arms seized at the gunsmith's shop belonged to customers,
suggesting that police could go
after clients of Montague's whose weapons were unlicensed or improperly registered.
After being in prison, without bail, for 11 days, Bruce was freed on Sept. 21 and will be back in
court on Nov. 15 to set a
preliminary trial date. Donna is scheduled to appear in Dryden provincial court on Oct. 25.
Meanwhile, friends and supporters of
both Montagues are still demanding answers about the way the province is handling the prosecution
of two of their neighbours
who, they believe, did nothing wrong except have the temerity to run their gun shop the same way
they always have--without the
government meddling in their business.
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