A Surrey teenager who brought a loaded handgun to school because he “thought it would be cool to show people” is now serving a six-month custodial sentence in the community for the offence.
The teen – identified in court documents only by the initials S.G. because he is a young offender – pleaded guilty to possessing a loaded restricted firearm without being a holder of an authorization or licence.
The 14-year-old – who was 13 and in Grade 8 at the time of the offence – was sentenced in Surrey provincial court in December, but the judge’s reasons were not posted online until this week.
Judge Satinder Sidhu’s decision summarizes an agreed statement of facts about what happened on Nov. 18, 2022, when S.G. brought the weapon to school. The name of the school is redacted throughout the decision.
According to the decision, the gun – a Smith & Wesson model SD 9VE, nine-millimetre handgun – belonged to S.G.’s father, who lawfully owned and possessed 25 firearms at the time of the incident.
S.G. took the gun from his father’s safe, without the man’s knowledge or consent, the day before he brought it to school.
The teen carried the gun in his backpack throughout the day, taking it out in the washroom in the morning to show a friend.
According to the decision, S.G. let his friend hold the gun and take a picture with it. S.G. also took video of himself holding the weapon and posted it on social media.
After lunch, he texted the friend to say he had shot the gun, and the friend later provided the school’s principal with a video that appeared to show S.G. discharging the weapon into the air.
“Although the admissions of fact do not expressly state that S.G. discharged the firearm, I am satisfied that he did so,” Sidhu’s decision reads.
“Based on the facts that are before the court, it is the only reasonable inference to be drawn.”
Around 2 p.m., school officials learned that S.G. was in possession of a firearm. The teen was removed from class, and the school’s principal located the weapon “tucked in the inside pocket of the backpack,” according to the decision.
“When questioned as to why S.G. would bring the gun to school, S.G. replied that he had thought it would be cool to show people,” the decision reads.
At the time of the offence, S.G. had a minor’s possession licence, allowing him to borrow non-restricted firearms and use them under certain conditions. The handgun he took to school was a restricted weapon.
‘Significant’ risk of harm
S.G. was expelled from his school after the incident, but he has since been allowed to attend a different school in Surrey, where his academic performance has improved significantly, according to the decision.
The judge noted that S.G. has “taken full responsibility” for the offence and committed himself to leading a “prosocial life” since the incident.
He has a good home life and a close relationship with his father, with whom he had spent considerable time on the gun range before the offence. While his family was disappointed in his behaviour, they have remained supportive of him, according to the decision.
These details – plus his early guilty plea, his lack of any previous criminal record and his compliance with bail conditions – all served as mitigating factors in Sidhu’s assessment of S.G.’s sentence.
There were numerous aggravating factors, however.
“Although there does not appear to be any malicious or nefarious reason in S.G. 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 decision reads.
“S.G.’s comments in the pre-sentence report undermined any suggestion of impulsivity in his conduct. 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.”
The deliberate nature of his conduct, along with the inherent danger of bringing a weapon to school, the emotional distress the school community suffered and the fact that – as an experienced gun user – he would have known his conduct was unsafe, all contributed to Sidhu’s determination that the case was “exceptional.”
Crown prosecutors had been pushing for the “exceptional” designation, which is required for courts to impose a custodial sentence.
The defence sought an absolute or conditional discharge of the case, without a custodial sentence. The Crown asked for six months in custody, to be served in the community.
Sidhu agreed with the Crown’s analysis, finding that only a custodial sentence would “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 1,800 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,” the decision reads.
“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.”
Following his six-month sentence, S.G. must serve six months of probation. There are numerous conditions attached to both the sentence and the probation, including a ban on possessing anything defined as a weapon under the Criminal Code.
The judge made two exceptions to this weapons ban. First, S.G. is allowed to carry a kirpan, a small dagger carried by Sikhs as a symbol of their faith. Second, he is allowed to possess weapons while practising gatka, a martial art, under the supervision of an adult.