If you’ve watched the news recently, then you likely saw the stories about not one, two, three or four but five Americans facing a minimum of 12 years in prison in Turks and Caicos after five separate incidents.

Turks & Caicos beach.The beautiful tiny islands of Turks and Caicos, which lie just south of the Bahamas, have been in the news the last few months for all the wrong reasons. The five Americans referred to above have each made the serious mistake of forgetting to take bullets from past hunting trips out of their bags. I wrote about two of the incidents:

‘From dream vacation to nightmare’: American dad faces 12 years in Turks and Caicos prison for having four rounds of bullets in his bag

Not again: American cruise passenger faces 12 years in prison for having stray bullets in bag

I can’t say I 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.

According to the TSA, their officers intercepted a total of 6,737 firearms at airport security checkpoints in the United States in 2023. This is higher than the previous year’s record of 6,542 and was the highest one-year total in TSA’s history. 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. We wish to remind 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. Before traveling to TCI, please review the updated TCI Travel.State.Gov  page to learn more about restrictions on traveling with firearms. If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately.”

Last week, a bipartisan group of US lawmakers traveled to Turks and Caicos to press for the release of all five Americans but, according to CNN, “encountered resistance from officials on the island, the lawmakers announced Monday. Republican Sen. Markwayne Mullin led the trip, which also was attended by Democratic Sen. John Fetterman and GOP Reps. Guy Reschenthaler, Josh Brecheen, Michael Cloud and Bob Good. The lawmakers met with Turks and Caicos officials, including the governor, attorney general, minister of tourism and police leaders, the statement from Mullin’s office said.”

Today, the first of the five faced the judge for sentencing. 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.”

According to Merriam-Webster, a suspended sentence is “a legal arrangement in which a person who has been found guilty of a crime is not sentenced to jail but may be sentenced for that crime at a future time if he or she commits another crime during a specified period.”

I had a feeling that if Bryan or any of the other Americans are given a 12-year or more sentence for innocent crime, there would be calls for a boycott. Turks and Caicos is so close to the United States, just 604 miles, which is an hour and twenty minute flight. My wife and kids and I went last November and absolutely loved it, as most Americans do. Here’s my trip report.

According to a 2019 Tourism Statistics Report 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. That year, the islands welcomed nearly 400,000 American visitors, compared to 45,000 Canadians and 22,000 Europeans. Turks and Caicos’ reliance on U.S. tourism is so significant that they use the U.S. dollar as their currency.”

There’s no way the tiny island wants to jeopardize the livelihoods of many locals but at the same time, they have to uphold their laws. However, 12 years minimum for an obviously innocent mistake doesn’t fit the crime, which is why so many people on social media want to boycott the islands. Below are a few examples but if you search Turks and Caicos boycott on X, then you will see the majority of them:

I think the other Americans who have similar stories (accidentally leaving bullets in their bag but fortunately no gun), will meet the same fate of a suspended sentence and paying a fine. I think they should all breathe a sigh of relief that they won’t go to prison and be away from their kids for so long. I also think that the locals can too because once all of them are freed, Americans will start traveling back to Turks and Caicos.

For those who 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.


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4 Comments On "Calls for boycott of Turks and Caicos after American sentenced: Are they justified?"
  1. Marlin|

    I realize they are upholding an existing law, but it’s a stupid law. What do they think a person will do with the bullets, throw them at someone? I think a fear of guns is also bad, having one and Knowing how to use it can help to go far in not being scared of them. Fear is bad for you in so many instances.

  2. Peter Brezinski|

    I have no sympathy for these people. When you travel to a foreign country, make sure you know what’s allowed and what isn’t. Triple check your luggage to make sure there’s nothing g “extra ” in it. Finally, keep your guns and ammo in a bag used only for that purpose.


    What kind of idiot doesn’t make sure their luggage is EMPTY before packing for a trip, especially to a foreign country!? Of course they were justified, their nation’s laws were broken by a foreign visitor. Anyone who breaks the laws of any country, including the U.S., should be punished according to the severity of the crime. They should also be banned from travel and placed on a no travel list, again, according to the severity of the offense. “Oops, oh well, I’m sorry”, just doesn’t fly in this case. Adults should know better, otherwise, they deserve whatever they get for their misbehavior. This is one of the reasons why Americans are so hated in many foreign countries. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

  4. Retired Gambler|

    Zero sympathy. We may not agree with the law and related punishment but that is their right to have it. Many nations have laws and punishment that seem unfair or too strict for Americans. I was recently in Singapore. They have a zero tolerance policy for drugs. If you are caught with them it is a mandatory death sentence (only exception is if you can prove you were a mule you get life in prison instead of death). Then there are the laws in many Middle Eastern and other Islamic countries.

    Bottom line, understand the laws and customs of any country you visit and ensure you comply. People that want to boycott the beautiful nation of Turks and Caicos are only depriving themselves. Similar to those that wanted to boycott Aruba after the high school girl was killed. I will never participate in any effort like that since I enjoy traveling and am not about to limit where I can go.

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