Paradise lost

A congressman wants to do right by his constituents. He wants to help solve their problems, even the gargantuan one of a man who faces a possible minimum 10-year prison sentence for taking what appeared to be forgotten pistols in a garment bag on a plane.

But sometimes a congressman’s hands are tied and options are limited. Sometimes he can only do what he can do, which is to hold the man’s hand, keep the issue alive and pray for a happy outcome.

Such is the situation for Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), who sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter last week asking fellow lawmakers for “advice and guidance” on the matter of fellow Arkansan Gary Barket, a Little Rock attorney who went to Bermuda on vacation last January but was detained on his way home due to pistols packed in his bag.   

“I’m not very satisfied with how things are going,” Snyder said in a phone interview from his home in Little Rock. “Getting people to pay attention [is hard]. This is not some hit man.”

According to Snyder, the pistols belong to Barket’s wife, Terry, handed down by her deceased father, and have never been fired. Barket, who was arrested in late January, said he didn’t know they were packed. He will remain in Bermuda until his trial in June.

U.S. laws vary greatly from those of Bermuda, a member of the British Commonwealth. In the U.S., travelers may pack unloaded registered weapons in their suitcases. In Bermuda, that is illegal.

The Barket family initially called Snyder’s office one year ago for a very different reason: to find out how to bury the ashes of Terry’s parents at Arlington Cemetery. Both served in the military.

The couple had stored the ashes in urns in an upstairs closet that was gathering dust. So Terry hired a cleaning service and Gary placed the pistols in a garment bag so the maids wouldn’t find them.

Snyder’s office came to Terry’s assistance and helped her through the process of burying the ashes at Arlington Cemetery, which is slated to happen on June 25.

“Terry feels terrible about this whole thing,” said Snyder, who spoke with her last week. “She wishes she never started it.”

Now the family has a much different problem. They call often, Snyder said, and his office is in touch every day with someone related to the case. He has spoken on their behalf to the British Embassy and to American officials at the State Department, the Transportation Security Administration and the American ambassador to Bermuda. He has also written a letter of character for Barket.

The Bermudian prosecutor sees the situation differently and is going after the man in the country’s Supreme Court as opposed to a lower body, where the sentence would likely just involve fines.   

“It’s scary as hell for Gary,” said Snyder, who assured the family that he’ll continue to fight for his constituent by talking about the case.