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Kraig Jacobson

ALPINE — A temporary lapse in judgment has cost a Utah Valley University student his freedom and a year of education.

Now he’s wondering when he’ll be allowed to leave Canada and return home to Alpine.

Kraig Jacobson, 26, and his brother Kevin Jacobson, 19, said they embarked on a motorcycle trip across North America in hopes of raising money for cancer awareness.

Kraig Jacobson had a 38-caliber handgun with him, he said, because they planned to be camping several nights and he wanted to have it in case they were confronted by wild animals.

On July 15, they entered Canada. At customs, however, he did not declare the gun.

“I was so focused on getting the passport ready, trying to do what I thought I was supposed to do,” he said. “When I got there, (the agent) said, 'Do you have any weapons?' and I remembered my gun, like at that moment, and I kind of panicked because I had forgotten about it, so I said no because I didn’t want to get into trouble.”

He was then asked to go to a checkpoint, where he was searched. He was asked again if he had any weapons. This time he said yes. He told the officer it was locked in the trunk of the motorcycle.

At first, he said officers told him he would lose the handgun, but that he likely wouldn’t be arrested. He was OK with that.

"I was kind of disappointed that I lost the gun, but I understood that this was kind of a big deal at this point," he said.

After the officer completed the paperwork, Jacobson said was surprised when he was arrested for investigation of smuggling a firearm and making false statements.

Canadian law states that visitors bringing any firearms into Canada or planning to borrow and use firearms while in Canada, must declare the firearms in writing. The law requires officials to confiscate firearms and weapons from persons crossing the border who deny having the items in their possession. Confiscated firearms and weapons are never returned. Possession of an undeclared firearm may result in arrest and imprisonment.

Jacobson said he figured he would be detained for a day while everything was sorted out. Instead he went to jail, and after 18 days he was released on bail. His trial date was set for Jan. 24, 2013.

But he can’t leave Canada until then. 

Being stuck in Ontario means he won't be back to work on Aug. 20 as planned, or go to school this fall. 

“I do believe I should be punished,” he said, “but I think a fair punishment, I should get a stiff fine, $1,000 or something, even a couple of weeks is fine.”

The government is asking for four to six months in jail, he said. He does say things could be worse. He could also be facing charges from local authorities, in addition to customs charges, that could mean a minimum of three years in prison.

Jacobson believes officials are being pressured to make an example out of people who don’t follow gun laws. “They’re not looking for justice, they are looking for examples to be made,” he said.

Asked why he didn’t just tell customs officials the truth in the first place, he said, “I didn’t have time to think of the consequences of how I answered.”

A petition has been set up on his behalf at www.change.org/petitions/canadian-government-release-kraig-jacobson asking the Canadian government to release him.

Contributing: Paul Nelson