Turks And Caicos, Ammunition Laws

Turks And Caicos Revises Ammunition Laws That Left 5 Americans Behind Bars Within The Last 6 Months

Turks and Caicos parliament has amended the ammunition law previously in place that would have left five Americans facing at least 12 years in prison after they were found with a handful of stray bullets in their luggage.

After a vacation to Turks and Caicos left five Americans behind bars, the island is revising its law regarding ammunition that put them in jail in the first place.

In May 2024, it was revealed that five Americans had been sent to jail within the past six months due to strict gun control laws in the 40-island chain that sits just southeast of the Bahamas. Michael Lee Evans, Sharitta Grier, Bryan Hagerich, Ryan Tyler Watson, and Tyler Wenrich were all detained at some point for having ammunition in their luggage. 

While some were let out on bond and allowed to return to the States while they await trial, Oklahoma resident Ryan Tyler Watson was released but ordered to remain on the island until his court date. 

Just days shy of his scheduled appearance in court, Turks and Caicos’ parliament announced its decision to repeal the law in place that required a 12-year minimum prison sentence for any firearm-related incidents. The move was made after what officials said was a “great amount” of back and forth with American lawmakers who have been negotiating with the country to ensure that its citizens are receiving what they believe is a fair trial.

Watson, among others who were also arrested and still awaiting trial, said that he had no intentions of bringing the handful of stray bullets that were recovered from his carry-on luggage when he arrived in Turks and Caicos. During an interview with Fox News Digital, the 40-year-old told reporters that the ammunition must have been left over from a previous hunting trip.

While Watson is still waiting to learn what his fate will be, it is important to note that the others charged were able to return home. 

After 100 days in jail, the court allowed Pennsylvania resident Bryan Hagerich to return home after agreeing to allow him to skip time in prison under the condition that he pay a $6,500 fine.

Similarly, 72-year-old Michael Lee Evans was able to return home to Texas due to serious illness after pleading guilty to the possession of seven rounds of ammunition. Virginia native Tyler Wenrich was let go after paying a hefty fine amounting to $10,000.

Along with Watson, Florida resident Sharitta Grier is also awaiting her sentencing.

“We had no intentions of ever bringing anything into this country,” Watson said. “It was just trying to pack board shorts and flip-flops, and that was all we were concerned about bringing,” Watson previously told Fox News Digital. “So… it never dawned on us to research any of these things. And there are a lot of locals that have been just such a blessing and have had such gracious hearts.”

At the time of his arrest, the law around ammunition would have required Watson to prove that his arrest took place under “exceptional circumstances” to potentially prevent facing a severe punishment. The amended law leaves it in the hands of the courts to impose a lesser sentence. 

In Watson’s case, a final decision will be made by the court on June 21. 

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