Case Highlights Importance Of Understanding The Countries’ Differing Laws
An American police officer has been arrested at Cancun International Airport after entering the country with a firearm. The officer legally owned the weapon but was apparently unaware of Mexico’s rules on weapons.
According to reports, Lemandries Hawes, a police officer with the Metropolitan Police Department of Nashville, Tennessee, was arrested on July 9th after Mexican authorities at the airport discovered the personally owned weapon in his checked luggage.
Hawes, who has worked in law enforcement in some capacity since 2017, legally owns the weapon and allegedly declared the weapon to the airline before traveling. However, bringing a firearm into Mexico is classed as a federal offense, and he was placed behind bars. According to the New York Post, a hearing was scheduled for Monday, but no further news has been announced.
It is assumed that Hawes is still behind bars. In theory, bringing a weapon into the country could carry a multiple-year sentence.
How he was allowed to board the plane without the airline flagging the law is unclear, but it’s not the first time a police officer has been detained for similar reasons. In 2018, married couple and police officers Martelle Davis and Shawana Davis were arrested after their duty firearms and ammo were found in their checked luggage.
Just a month ago, another woman attempted to enter Cancun with a firearm in her checked luggage. She was also arrested by the National Guard and was awaiting trial.
Their ordeal was far shorter than Hawes’, and the pair were released after only a day on bond, paying a fine before returning to the States. Once again, it’s unclear how the airline in question allowed the couple to bring their weapons into a country that rules the act illegal.
Others have been less lucky. In 2021, a teacher from Arizona spent seven weeks behind bars after bringing a weapon over the border. She was not in Cancun, and the gun was discovered in the travel bag that she typically has on her. Another man was sentenced to three years in prison after crossing the US-Mexican border with a weapon. He claims he forgot he had it in the car but was still sentenced.
The regular cases highlight the stark differences between the US and Mexico and the issues that many tourists have in grasping them. There are very few countries in the world that would openly accept a foreigner with a weapon. Very few countries even allow their own citizens to have firearms on them at any time, making the casual import of a firearm from a tourist a serious offense.
Cancun has struggled with visitors’ disregard for rules, with many who arrive taking a loose approach to things like drug use. Many of those seeking drugs in the region view Mexico as being relaxed on drug use or possession. The reality is far from the truth, and tourists caught with any illegal substances can find themselves behind bars for several years, depending on the severity of the incident.
It’s incredibly important for visitors to any new country to understand the basic laws of the destination before departing. There is no doubt that the police officers who have brought weapons into the country did it instinctively for their own or their family’s protection, but a simple check online would have alerted them to the rules surrounding guns in Mexico.
Tourists should make themselves aware of local laws and check for the details of the local embassy to have help available as soon as possible. If the worst happens and law is broken, intentionally or otherwise, remaining calm is imperative. The embassy should be contacted as soon as possible, and no negotiating should take place until a US representative is involved. Language barriers can cause more problems, so ensuring a translator is available is imperative.
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