Turks & Caicos Might Not Jail Tourists with Accidental Ammo


In the July 2024 issue of Gun Tests, we advised against travel to the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). The British Overseas Territory located southeast of the Bahamas had just locked up another U.S. citizen, bringing the total to at least eight American tourists to face “firearms prosecutions” since November 2022. Now, it seems that TCI officials have amended the law.

TCI Attorney General Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles told the Caribbean Life website the new rules allow judges more flexibility in responding to the facts of each case. She said the main goal of the law was deterrence, not custodial sentences.

American tourists had been snared by inadvertently having ammunition in their luggage, with disastrous consequences. Firearms and ammunition are strictly forbidden there. The U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas last September issued this warning to travelers: “Firearms, ammunition, and other weapons are not permitted in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). TCI authorities strictly enforce all firearms-related laws. The penalty for traveling to TCI with a firearm, ammunition, or other weapon is a minimum custodial sentence of twelve (12) years.”

The advisory also stated, “If you bring a firearm or ammunition into TCI, [the embassy] will not be able to secure your release from custody. You are subject to TCI laws and must follow local law enforcement procedures.”

Though the 12-year mandatory minimum is still on the books, judges now have more flexibility within the law’s “exceptional circumstances” framework to determine sentences. Now, it seems violators can avoid going to jail and resolve their cases by paying fines or by serving a custodial sentence less than 12 years, in combination with a fine.

We don’t know how the changes will affect the Americans arrested while the prior law was still in effect. So extreme caution is still the order of the day if you’re considering going to TCI.



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