Turks and Caicos imprisons American tourists over ammunition in luggage

Looks like ammo-packing beachgoers might want to avoid the idyllic isles of the Turks and Caicos unless they're down for an extended, amenity-free island jailstay.

American vacationers are learning the hard way about Turks and Caicos' strict new laws on ammunition possession, reports CBS News. Under a recent court order, even a few stray bullets in luggage can land tourists behind bars for years, regardless of intent.

The policy has already affected several unsuspecting U.S. travelers like Ryan Watson, who now faces a potential 12-year sentence after security found four hunting cartridges in his carry-on. His wife Valerie was forced to fly home alone, their dream getaway devolving into "a nightmare." Bryan Hagerich similarly spent over two months in legal limbo after ammunition turned up in his checked bag, describing his brief jail stint as "the darkest, hardest times" of his life.

The harsh crackdown seems calculated to make an example of Americans in particular. Last year, a judge openly stated Indiana native Michael Grim's six-month sentence was "predicated on the fact that I was an American." Grim recounted horrific conditions like unclean water, disease threats, and "hostile actors." With the U.S. State Department warning 'Muricans they'll get no help if arrested, an inadvertent ammo slip-up can turn a Caribbean paradise into a punitive purgatory for careless tourists.

As the distraught Watson pleaded, "It's just unfathomable. I do not — I can't process it."

Semi related sidenote: About 15 years ago I was getting my shoes shined at Burbank airport when a famous celebrity came up to the shoeshine stand. She handed one of the employees some cowboy boots and asked him to shine them. When she reached into her purse she dropped it, and at least eight bullets fell out and rolled across the floor. She scooped them up and put them in her purse. This was past the TSA security checkpoint, so she was somehow able to get through the scanners with the bullets in her purse. The shoeshine guy looked at me while I died and asked me if she was a movie star. I nodded my head.

Previously: Watch: Fire burns a Carnival cruise ship while passengers are docked in Grand Turk