May 21, 2024 - World

5 Americans to remain detained in Turks and Caicos over ammunition charges

 Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) in Washington, D.C., in April 2024.

Sen. Markwayne Mullin. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

U.S. lawmakers on Monday were unable to secure the release of five Americans arrested in Turks and Caicos on charges of illegally carrying ammunition to the tourist destination.

Why it matters: The charges carry a minimum 12-year prison sentence if convicted.

Context: Turks and Caicos' law forbids the possession of all firearms, ammunition and other weapons in the British territory. Authorities there strictly enforce all firearms-related laws.

  • The laws were implemented two years ago after a rise in gun violence that's continued into 2024.
  • The U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas issued a travel warning over the gun law last year.

What they're saying: Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), one of the lawmakers who traveled to Turks and Caicos, said Monday he and his colleagues were "not able to find a path forward" on the arrests.

  • 'The unintended consequences of [Turks and Caicos'] law have been at the expense of well-intentioned American tourists, including a grandmother, who had no intention of breaking the law," Mullin said.
  • He said if the Americans are convicted, "we will need to consider additional actions to safeguard American citizens."
  • Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and Reps. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), Bob Good (R-Va.), Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.) and Michael Cloud (R-Texas) also joined Mullin on the trip.

The big picture: Americans arrested over the law are a woman from Florida and four men from Oklahoma, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Texas, according to ABC News.

  • Some of those arrested said they forgot they had a few rounds of ammunition in their luggage while traveling.
  • One of the Americans, Michael Lee Evans of Texas, was allowed to return to the U.S. due to medical reasons but pleaded guilty to possession of seven 9mm rounds of ammunition and will face sentencing.
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