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Harold Waller

This photo provided by the Sacramento (Calif.) County Sheriff's Department shows Harold Waller. Waller a Montana man is being held without bail after authorities say he tried to bring four guns past a security checkpoint at Sacramento International Airport.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal judge sentenced a Montana man to three years in prison on Wednesday for attempting to board a flight in Sacramento, Calif., with four loaded guns.

Harold E. Waller, 46, of Circle, Mont., was arrested in March 2012 as he attempted to pass through security screening while openly carrying a loaded 9 mm handgun in a shoulder holster. Screeners also found guns and ammunition in his three carry-on bags.

Federal guidelines called for a sentence of no more than six months, meaning Waller could have been freed immediately after sentencing because he already has spent more than a year in custody.

But U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller issued the stiffer sentence, saying Waller downplayed his actions and characterized them as a mistake.

His attorney, Katherine Lothrop of Sacramento, said she had hoped the judge would order that her client be treated in a half-way house. She hopes he will be evaluated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and serve his time in a mental health treatment facility.

The judge's decision followed a daylong hearing Tuesday on Waller's psychological condition.

"He was confused. We're not sure why," Lothrop said.

His mother, Helen Waller, previously told The Associated Press her son had been receiving treatment for depression at a Sacramento clinic before he bought a one-way ticket to Alaska.

He pleaded guilty to attempting to board an aircraft with a concealed weapon.

The U.S. Attorney's Office quoted the judge as saying that, "the public could have been seriously harmed."

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, in a statement, called Waller's sentence "a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks bringing guns on an airplane might be a good idea."