Turks, Caicos Update: Oklahoma Man Pleads Guilty to Ammo Possession

by Tommy Grant

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In the ongoing injustice of Americans being imprisoned in the Turks and Caicos Islands for accidental possession of a few rounds ammunition that they could legally own and transport in the United States, an Oklahoma man has pleaded guilty to the charges.

Ryan Watson of Edmond, Oklahoma, pled guilty after two other Americans were sentenced for similar “crimes” last week. One, a Pennsylvania man, was given a year-long suspended sentence and fined $6,700. The other man, who was from Virginia, was given time served and fined $9,000.

Watson and his wife were leaving the island last month when four rounds of hunting ammunition were found in his luggage. He has been forced to remain on the island since April 12.

A British territory in the Caribbean, Turks and Caicos is a very popular destination for tourists from the U.S. But the government’s strict ban on even a single round of ammunition has caught many Americans in its trap.

In fact, at least nine Americans have been arrested for ammunition accidentally brought to the islands since gun laws were made more restrictive there in 2022. Most simply failed to check their luggage closely enough and accidentally had a few rounds of ammo from an earlier trip within the U.S.

The grave injustice of being imprisoned and fined for simply having ammo has drawn the attention of American lawmakers at both the state and federal level. The governors of Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Virginia sent a letter to Turks and Caicos Gov. Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam last month asking that the frivolous charges against the residents of their states be dropped. “We humbly ask that your government—in its wisdom—temper justice with mercy and recognize that these men made mistakes but had no apparent malicious intent,” the letter stated.

More recently, some members of Congress visited the island to appeal for leniency for the incarcerated Americans. The strange mix of lawmakers included Senators Mark Wayne Mullin, R-Oklahoma, and John Fetterman, D-Pennsylvania, along with Representatives Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pennsylvania, Bob Good, R-Virginia, Josh Brecheen, R-Oklahoma, and Michael Cloud, R-Texas.

However, according to a statement from Turks and Caicos Premier Washington Misick released last week, the efforts by politicians don’t seem to be bearing much fruit. In that letter, the premier noted: “Let me be clear: In the Turks and Caicos Islands, the law stands firm and applies to everyone equally, without exception. Our commitment to the rule of law is unwavering and remains a cornerstone of our democratic values.

Under the restrictive ammunition ban, offenders can be sentenced to a minimum of 12 years for possessing a single round of ammo.

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