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NRA warns members about travel to Caribbean island

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The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) has issued a warning to its members about traveling to the “Turks and Chaos,” a play on the name of the Caribbean Turks and Caicos Islands, after another American tourist was arrested and charged with ammunition possession.

The warning, which told members to “set aside communist Cuba for a moment, these days another Caribbean Island jurisdiction is providing a cautionary tale of U.S. gun owners…the Turks and Caicos Islands,” was issued on Monday after a fifth American tourist was arrested by the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force. Details of the arrest and the individual have not yet been confirmed.

Newsweek reached out for comment to the NRA-ILA, the organization’s lobbying arm, via its online contact form and also emailed the Royal Turks and Caicos Police Force.

In the past six months, all five Americans have faced charges of ammunition possession on the islands, with four of them claiming they mistakenly brought it there, according to CBS News.

Travelers wait in line before passing through a security checkpoint at Denver International Airport on December 28, 2022. Five U.S. tourists have been arrested and charged with carrying ammunition in luggage at the Turks and…


Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

In a statement, the NRA-ILA urged members to “ensure they start the packing process with an empty bag” and to “consider the wisdom of spending their money in a jurisdiction [the Turks and Caicos Islands] that would treat their countrymen in such a manner.”

The British overseas territory is a popular vacation destination for Americans, especially by cruise. The NRA has an estimated membership of about 4 million.

On April 20, Virginian paramedic Tyler Wenrich was charged with ammunition possession and faces 12 years in prison after two 9 millimeter rounds were found in his bag when he was reboarding his Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Wenrich told TV station WBTS earlier in May, “I’ve used that bag to go to the shooting range with friends and to carry my firearm in the past. So it was, you know, I checked it before I left, and it was just a complete oversight on me. TSA and the port security, you know, three groups missed that ammunition.”

Wenrich continued: “I spent about three nights in the jail, and then I moved to the prison for about nine nights. It was extremely difficult.”

A GoFundMe account for Wenrich, which features a photo of him and his 18-month-old son, has raised almost $16,500 as of Wednesday.

Four days after Wenrich’s arrest, on April 24, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau issued an alert urging all travelers to “carefully check your luggage for stray ammunition or forgotten weapons” as the “penalty for traveling to TCI with a firearm, ammunition, or other weapon can result in a minimum custodial sentence of twelve (12) years.”

The NRA-ILA echoed this sentiment, telling members to begin packing with an empty bag. “Despite taking precautions, gun owners know that these types of possession accidents can happen…. No one’s life should be forever altered over this type of inadvertent possession,” the NRA-ILA said.

Just days before Wenrich’s arrest, Oklahoman Ryan Watson was arrested on the islands and accused of having ammunition in his luggage. He similarly faces a potential 12-year prison sentence and agreed to pay a $15,000 bail. He is confined to the islands and must report to the police station every Tuesday and Thursday, according to a local police alert. His next scheduled court date is June 7.

A GoFundMe account for Watson has raised $230,000 as of Wednesday and urges people to “flood the court with character references.” It describes Watson as a “man of faith, of strong character, and a loving husband, father, and provider.”

The page also tells people who have ever had the experience of “accidentally leaving something similar in your bag, purse, suitcase, shoe, etc….please detail the situation and sign the letter.”

Bryan Hagerich of Pennsylvania was arrested in February and charged with possessing 20 rounds of ammunition, which he says he mistakenly brought with him from a previous hunting trip. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 29.

Another American, Michael Evans, who was arrested in December, pleaded guilty to ammunition possession charges and is in the U.S. on bail. He has a June 18 sentencing hearing.