MEXICO CITY (AP) — Kyle Busch was detained at a Mexican airport late last month when a handgun and ammunition were discovered in his luggage, the NASCAR star acknowledged this week, apologizing for the incident and calling it “a mistake.”
Busch was sentenced this month to 3 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for having a gun and ammunition, a punishment handed down by a judge in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, home to beach destinations Cancun and Tulum.
The federal Attorney General’s Office said the judge decided to allow a conditional punishment and let Busch leave Mexico after he paid a bond. The office did not say how much he paid.
A two-time NASCAR champion and the winningest active driver in the Cup Series, Busch acknowledged the situation in a Monday social media post. He said he has “a valid concealed carry permit from my local authority and adhere to all handgun laws, but I made a mistake by forgetting it was in my bag.
“Discovery of the handgun led to my detainment while the situation was resolved. I was not aware of Mexican law and had no intention of bringing a handgun into Mexico,” Busch wrote. “When it was discovered, I fully cooperated with the authorities, accepted the penalties, and returned to North Carolina.
“I apologize for my mistake and appreciate the respect shown by all parties as we resolved the matter. My family and I consider this issue closed.”
A NASCAR spokesperson said Tuesday that Busch informed the sanctioning body of the incident and is not facing any punishment. Busch is in his first season driving for Richard Childress Racing and finished third in Sunday night’s debut, a preseason exhibition at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Richard Childress, the team owner of Busch’s new car, is an avid hunter and prominent member of the NRA.
Busch was arrested by the National Guard on Jan. 27 after trying to depart Cancun’s international airport. A scan of his luggage at the terminal for private aircraft revealed a .380 caliber pistol with six hollow-point bullets, according to a statement from the Attorney General’s Office.
Busch was brought Jan. 29 before a judge who ruled the arrest was legal and Busch was sentenced Feb. 3, according to the statement.
The next step would be the judge scheduling another hearing to set the details of Busch’s conditional punishment and where he will pay the fine. He could avoid any additional jail time.
Mexico’s constitution guarantees citizens’ right to own a handgun and hunting rifles for self-defense and sport, but there are significant bureaucratic hurdles to obtaining a legally registered handgun and the military is the only legal seller. The country is awash with illegal guns, however, most of which are purchased in the United States and smuggled into Mexico.
Last August, Busch and his family were inside the Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis when shots were fired. They were able to safely leave the mall unharmed.