Turks and Caicos, the tiny, beautiful islands that sit just south of the Bahamas and 600 miles from Miami, sure is getting a lot of media attention lately.
Turks & Caicos beach.
Unfortunately, it’s for all of the wrong reasons. It all started when Turks and Caicos changed their laws regarding tourists caught with a gun or ammunition in their luggage. Previously, travelers would have to pay a fine but a recent court order mandated that “even tourists in the process of leaving the country are subject to prison time.”

Recently, five Americans have been arrested for having ammunition in their bags but what’s shocking is that most of these people, if not all, have been caught when going through security to leave the country – either at the airport or the cruise port. The big story should really be how does the United States’ Transportation Security Administration keep missing all of these incidents?

All of the offenders have admitted to owning the ammunition but foolishly hadn’t removed them from their travel bag, including the latest suspect, who is the fifth American and a woman to be arrested on this charge in Turks and Caicos.

According to the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force media release, posted on their Facebook page: on “May 16th, 2024. Visitor Charged. Officers of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force have charged 45-year-old SHARITTA SHINISE GRIER. Ms. Grier of Orlando, U.S.A, was charged on May 14th, 2024, with: * One Count Possession of Ammunition. Today (May 16th), Ms. Grier appeared in the Magistrate Court and was remanded pending a Sufficiency Hearing on July 05th. The particulars of the offence state that on Monday, May 13th, 2024, during a routine search at the Howard Hamilton International Airport, Providenciales, Ms. Grier allegedly had ammunition in her possession.”

Another American arrested in Turks and Caicos.According to Central Florida’s Spectrum News 13, Grier said she was stopped at the Orlando airport when she left the United States. “I got stopped. My bag got flagged. They’re taking everything out and she said you can’t have this tall bottle of lotion and body spray. I said okay. She tossed it in the trash.”

Grier was visiting Turks and Caicos on a Mother’s Day trip but when leaving the islands, “airport authorities found two bullets in her luggage and charged her with one count of possession of ammunition. She is currently staying at an Airbnb with two other Americans going through the same situation.”

Grier admitted she owns a gun for protection and that she stores it away in her duffel bag when people visit. She said when her daughter surprised her with the trip to Turks and Caicos, she said she started to pack using that bag. Grier said she was shocked when they found the bullets in her bag and she thinks the “Only thing I know of that could have happened is with the box, with me tilting the bag back, putting it on my top shelf in my closet, the two-round had to have rolled out of the box and went under the flap into my carry-on. That’s the only way,” Grier said.

As I’ve written before, I don’t understand the American infatuation with guns and ammunition but what I do understand is the toll it has taken and continues to take on our country. And while there may be plenty of responsible, law-abiding gun owners, there are also plenty who are not. And carelessness with guns or ammunition of any kind is an obvious problem.

One stat shows that gun ownership in the USA is at an all-time high and the TSA said their officers intercepted a total of 6,737 firearms at airport security checkpoints in 2023. It was the highest one-year total in TSA’s history and approximately 93% of the 2023 firearms were loaded.

It’s been such a problem in Turks and Caicos that in September 2023, the US Embassy in the Bahamas posted a travel alert that read: “TRAVEL ALERT:  DO NOT BRING FIREARMS/AMMUNITION TO THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS. 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 United States Embassy reminds “all travelers that declaring a weapon in your luggage with an airline carrier does not grant permission to bring the weapon into TCI and will result in your arrest. We strongly encourage you to carefully check your luggage for stray ammunition or forgotten weapons before departing for TCI. If you bring a firearm or ammunition into TCI, we will not be able to secure your release from custody. You are subject to TCI laws and must follow local law enforcement procedures.”

Fortunately, for Grier, the first of the five Americans faced the judge for sentencing this week after being detained since February. According to NBC News, “Bryan Hagerich, 39, was given a suspended sentence of 52 weeks by a judge who cited exceptional circumstances in the case, including the fact that Hagerich brought the ammo into the country unintentionally, and the impact his detainment had on his 5-year-old daughter. The father of two will have to pay a fine of $6,700 and, after that, he will be able to return home. He won’t serve jail time, as the judge suspended his 52-week sentence for 12 months.”

Turks and Caicos has been a popular vacation spot for Americans because of its natural beauty and proximity to the USA. My wife and kids and I went last November and absolutely loved it, as most Americans do. Here’s my trip report.

According to the latest tourism numbers (besides during the pandemic) by the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board and Oklahoma City’s KOCO, “82%of their land-based travelers and 86% of cruise ship visitors were from the U.S.”

There’s no doubt Turks and Caicos relies on U.S. tourism so I doubt they’re going to put these Americans in jail for 12 years since they will face a serious boycott. But they still have to be away from their families for two months while waiting to face the judge and pay a hefty fine.

If you own a gun, it is essential that you double- and triple-check your bags and all its compartments to make sure there are no stray bullets inside. My advice is to not even use the same bag for travel that you use for hunting or to store your guns and ammunition. Bottom line: When you travel, you have to know and abide by the laws of the land you are in.


1 Comment On "Are you kidding? Another American arrested in Turks and Caicos for possession of ammunition and this time, it’s a woman"
  1. Marlin|

    Has anyone wondered if they are planting this ammo? It’s always ammo, which would be very easy to plant, vs a gun.

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