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Trouble in Paradise: Another Gun Owner Arrested for Ammo in Luggage at Turks and Caicos Airport

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You’d think after all the news stories about guys like Ryan Watson and others who are facing more than a decade behind bars for accidentally bringing a few loose rounds of ammunition in their luggage while visiting the Turks and Caicos Islands, even folks who don’t own a gun would be double and triple-checking their bags before they head off on their tropical location just to make sure no errant ammo got tucked inside, while gun owners would have found a new vacation destination that’s more 2A-friendly.

Unfortunately, another American tourist is facing criminal charges after Howard Hamilton International Airport officials spotted a couple of rounds in luggage during a security screening; at least the fifth time this year a gun owner’s been arrested for bringing ammunition into the country. 

Monday’s arrest brought the total number of Americans facing charges for ammunition possession in the British territory to five. Four of the detained Americans have said they brought in the ammunition – but by mistake. 

Ryan Watson, a 40-year-old Oklahoma father of two, made national headlines after ammo was found in his luggage by airport security in April. He is currently out on bail – though confined to the island while his case moves forward – and officials require him to check in at the Grace Bay Police Station every Tuesday and Thursday. He faces a possible mandatory minimum 12-year prison term. 

Just days after Watson’s arrest, 30-year-old Tyler Wenrich, a Virginia EMT and father, was detained before boarding a cruise ship on April 20th. He faces a possible 12-year sentence after officials allegedly found two bullets in his luggage last month. 

“I feel like, as a very honest mistake, that 12 years is absurd,” his wife, Jeriann Wenrich, told CBS News in April, who said she doesn’t want to see her 18-month-old son grow up without a dad.

Bryan Hagerich is another American awaiting trial after ammo was found in the Pennsylvania man’s checked bag in February. “I subsequently spent eight nights in their local jail,” Hagerich told CBS News. “Some of the darkest, hardest times of my life, quite frankly.

Turks and Caicos officials haven’t released any information about the individual who was arrested on Monday, though a couple of local news outlets have reported an American woman was taken into custody. 

Until February, tourists like Watson, Wenrich, and Hagerich faced fines but no jail time if they were caught with errant ammo. Since then, however, a court order requires the arrest and detention for those found with even a single round while they’re trying to leave the island. 

The Biden administration has been as helpful as you’d expect; it issued a travel advisory in April warning tourists to “carefully check your luggage for stray ammunition or forgotten weapons before departing from the United States,” but it hasn’t applied any pressure (at least publicly) to the Turks and Caicos government to scrap its current policy. 

After the most recent arrest was reported, the National Rifle Association issued a press release warning gun owners of the perils of traveling to the islands, and added that “[e]ven U.S. gun owners confident in their ability to purge their luggage of any potential contraband may want to consider the wisdom of spending their money in a jurisdiction that would treat their countrymen in such a manner.” 

If you’re looking for a tropical getaway and don’t want to worry about any random ammo ruining your vacation, your best bet is to drive to Florida for your rest and relaxation. If you’re intent on flying to your destination, take the time to go over your luggage beforehand. Even in the U.S. you run the risk of a fine if TSA spots any arms or ammo that’s not secured according to their guidelines; a pain in the neck, but a far cry from the twelve years behind bars that Watson and others are facing. 

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