Gun-Owning Americans Face Fines, Jail Time Overseas

posted on June 16, 2024
Travel Trend
Photo courtesy of author.

Vacation season has arrived, and odds are good you have at least one trip planned this year. Long before “getting away from it all,” however, enthusiasts need to know before you go. Check every bag you’re bringing for ammo, guns or parts that could result in a citation or arrest. It’s particularly important if you use one that has seen firing-line time.

Then double-check firearm and ammunition regulations at the destination and locations between, including flight layovers—short-lived though they may be. Review and adhere to your airline, train or boat carrier’s regulations and all TSA rules.

The recent arrests of Americans in Turks and Caicos Islands highlight the importance of doing so. It also underscores how the simplest oversight can result in legal problems.

Turks and Caicos Islands—a British Overseas Territory southeast of the Bahamas—is a popular tourist destination. This year five U.S. citizens have been charged under a firearm and ammunition law passed in 2022 that carries a minimum 12-year-jail sentence.

Thankfully, a clause in the legislation allows a judge to weigh “exceptional circumstances” in sentencing. Some of the Americans have already been released, but the fines they’ve received might exceed what they paid to visit the tropical paradise.

Don’t be lulled into thinking the unthinkable will never happen to you. Tiny rimfire cartridges hide in bag corners and worm their way under seemingly sealed fabric. Expect delays, or worse, if that bag is your carry-on for your next domestic flight or inspected by customs officials in a foreign land.

South Of The Border
The plight of American tourists in Turks and Caicos Islands has dominated headlines, but don’t be lulled into thinking it’s the only place with strict laws. In 2022, a couple from the United States flew out of the United States to vacation in Cancun, Mexico. The husband used a bag he kept in his truck as a carry on, and it passed TSA inspection when he departed. Unfortunately, when he landed in Mexico, authorities arrested him for two cartridges he’d overlooked inside.

NASCAR driver Kyle Busch was sentenced to three years in a Mexican prison last year when authorities found the loaded .380 ACP-chambered pistol he brought with him to Cancun. The gun was detected during departure screening before a private flight back to the U.S..

The laws south of the border apply whether tourists walk across for the day or take a boat, plane or vehicle.

By Plane
Last year, the TSA set a record for the number of firearms detected during pre-flight screening—6,737. The figure is tiny compared to the more than 858 million fliers and 1.91 billion carry-on items it screened.

It is, however, a reminder that gun owners—particularly those who routinely carry concealed—need to make time before traveling to double-check luggage. Cartridges are not allowed in a carry on, either, although TSA didn’t publish the number of them it confiscated last year.

Another concern, albeit a lesser one, is flight connections. A law-abiding citizen who properly declares an unloaded gun in checked luggage (when leaving a gun-friendly state), could be forced to spend more than a night in a less firearm-friendly location—due to weather delays or mechanical issues. If that unscheduled stay is long enough, they could find themselves back in possession of all their bags, including a gun they don’t have proper paperwork or permits to possess in that location. Getting that firearm back onto a rescheduled flight could become a nightmare.

By Road
Firearm laws can, and usually do, change the moment you cross state lines. Thankfully, NRA-ILA has a handy online resource that includes a variety of other details as well. Simply select states along a route, sort of subject of interest, or scan the news feed for critical updates. Information includes whether the state recognizes constitutional carry, concealed carry reciprocity information and more.

Early vacationers have, more than ever before, issued a painful reminder for every gun owner. Double-check luggage, study regulations and KNOW BEFORE YOU GO!


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