A North Vancouver man has been handed a three-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to a firearms charge.
On July 17, 2021, West Vancouver police pulled Thomas Barewski over on Main Street near the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing because a scan of his plates showed warrants for his arrest, the court heard at his sentencing in Vancouver provincial court on Monday (April 4).
The arresting officer found a knife in Barewski’s pocket. Inside the vehicle, he found more knives, a belt with a homemade holster, a fake police badge, a collapsible baton, bear spray, seven rounds of nine-millimetre ammunition, and numerous bags of methamphetamine and crack cocaine, plus $500 in cash, according to Crown prosecutor Ariana Ward.
Three days later, police got a warrant and did a more thorough search of the vehicle and found a fake ID, more drugs, pistol grips, a gun component that had been created with a 3D printer, and a Glock pistol hidden underneath the driver’s seat cushion. The gun was loaded with seven rounds in the magazine.
A firearms expert analyzed it and found the gun’s receiver was actually from a CO2-powered airsoft gun with the slide and firing mechanism from a real Glock pistol added on, Ward told the court.
“In order to do that, you have to file down various components and drill things,” she said. “They fired it and it was able to function like an actual Glock handgun. The significance though … is this gun didn't have a serial number because the receiver was actually a CO2 pistol.”
Before the pandemic, a gun like that would fetch about $3,500 on the street. Today they’re worth about $5,000, Ward added.
“If the court can believe it, there's actually supply chain issues now with COVID, and most street guns are brought in through the US,” she said. “Illegal street guns can't come in as easily through the border. Because of COVID, these types of guns are valuable.”
At the time of the arrest, Barewski was already under court orders to not possess any firearms.
Barewski initially faced more than a dozen gun and drug charges. He pleaded guilty in February to one count of possession of a firearm without a licence or registration. The remaining 13 charges were stayed by the Crown.
Both the Crown and Barewski’s defence submitted that a jail term of three years, which would be at the low end of the range for firearms offences, would be appropriate.
Barewski’s defence lawyer Ray Enright said the investigating officer mischaracterized many of the items found in the initial search. The knife in his pocket was a common folding knife. The belt was available at hardware stores, and the holster was used by Barewski to hold his power drill. The drugs were left in the car by someone else, his lawyer contended.
Barewski, a 32-year-old electrician, has an aptitude for all things mechanical and a particular interest in firearms, Enright said.
“Mr. Barewski makes no bones about the fact that he likes guns. He's like a lot of Canadians. He enjoys them,” he said, noting Barewski would only ever shoot the gun deep in the woods. “He had no intention to use it for or in conjunction with any illegal activity, including uses on people.”
Judge Ellen Gordon rubbished the reason for Barewski’s possessing the gun but agreed to the joint submission for a three-year sentence.
“Quite frankly, I don't care that you like guns because Canada doesn't like guns, and we don't want people to have them. We want to be a peaceful country. That’s why this is such a serious crime,” she said.
Gordon, however, noted that letters of reference from Barewski’s friends and family were impeccable. She also praised his decision to plead guilty, rather than go through a lengthy trial during which, she suggested, some evidence may have been dismissed.
“The police officer, I'll say this, embellished the circumstances in order to obtain a warrant and a judge who heard the trial may have been less than impressed with that,” she said.
Barewski declined to make a statement to the court before sentencing.
He has been in custody since July 2021. Gordon credited him with 384 days, and added two years more to his prison term.
In closing, Gordon wished him luck with his rehabilitation and left him with a stern warning.
“For the rest of your life, you are prohibited from owning any firearms, ammunition or explosives. No excuses,” she said.