Trouble in Paradise: US Gun Group Takes Aim at Carib Nation

Ryan and Valerie Watson
Ryan and Valerie Watson | Image by GoFundMe

A pro-gun group is rallying around an Oklahoma couple that was taken into custody in the British overseas territory of Turks and Caicos for having four rounds of ammunition in their luggage.

Gun Owners of America (GOA), one of the foremost gun rights organizations in the United States, told The Dallas Express about its efforts to raise awareness about the issue.

“This was nothing more than an innocent mistake, and the penalty this American citizen is facing as a consequence is egregious,” Aidan Johnston, GOA’s director of federal affairs, said. “Unfortunately, it’s doubtful that the Biden administration or the state department will have any sympathy for this gun owner since the Democratic Party supports identical gun control policies to this one in Turks and Caicos.”

“For example, in Washington D.C., you can face up to a decade in prison for merely possessing a ‘restricted pistol bullet’ or other ammunition without an unconstitutional ‘registration certificate,’” he added.

Johnston referred interested parties to § 7-2506.01 and § 7-2507.06 of DC’s penal code for more information.

The State Department referred The Dallas Express to a statement given by officials during a press conference immediately after news of the situation broke.

“We have no higher priority than the safety and security of American citizens overseas,” the official said. “We are aware of the arrests of U.S. citizens in Turks and Caicos. When a U.S. citizen is arrested, we stand by ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance. But in a foreign country, U.S. citizens are subject to the country’s laws even if they may differ from what is law in the United States.”

The spokesperson noted the gravity of the situation, reminding the press gaggle that this type of offense in the small island nation could bring a “custodial [prison] sentence of 12 years.” Neither the White House nor the U.S. Ambassador to Turks and Caicos responded to requests for comment.

Ryan and Valerie Watson were first detained by authorities when they were traveling home from the Caribbean after a 40th birthday getaway on April 12, numerous outlets have reported.

Valerie told KOCO 5 News, a local news outlet, that the bullets had been in their suitcase since they flew out of Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City. Neither of them realized the ammunition was still in the luggage, which presumably had been used by Ryan on a “deer hunting” trip. TSA agents did not detect the bullets during screening when they initially departed from Will Rogers.

While they were initially detained together, Valerie was eventually released back to Oklahoma, where their children, who had not traveled with them, were waiting for their parents’ return. Ryan is out of jail on bond but is still in Turks and Caicos awaiting his next court date on June 7, the Oklahoma news outlet reported.

The legal origin of this arrest is a Turks and Caicos crime bill that imposes a 12-year minimum sentence for carrying guns or ammunition into the country. The U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas has since issued a warning to American travelers on the severe consequences of bringing bullets to the Turks and Caicos islands.

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