A Washington state senator who carried a handgun on a flight to Hong Kong has avoided a possible 14-year prison sentence after a court accepted his claim was a “terrible accident.”
Republican Jeff Wilson was arrested at Hong Kong airport on October 21 at the start of a five-week vacation in Southeast Asia with his wife Trisha.
He had flown through Portland and San Francisco airports with the gun in his briefcase and insisted he only found out about it when he reached for a “piece of chewing gum” during the flight.
“Over the Pacific, I was reaching for gum in my briefcase and reached for my gun instead,” he explained on his website.
“My heart sank. “I immediately understood what had happened and that my only option was to report to the relevant authorities.”
Washington state Sen. Jeff Wilson hesitated to face photographers as he arrived at a Hong Kong courthouse to hear a verdict that could have given him 14 years in prison for carrying an unlicensed gun the repressive former colony had brought
State Senator Jeff Wilson, pictured with wife Trisha, was at the start of a five-week vacation in Southeast Asia when he was arrested at Hong Kong airport
The pro-gun advocate in his home state supported a law this summer that would make it easier for Washington museums to obtain historic firearms without background checks
The senator, elected in 2020, denied reports that the weapon was discovered during an on-arrival search, insisting that at the end of the 15-hour flight he “immediately went to customs officials and alerted them to the problem.” “.
He said the revolver was unloaded and registered in Washington, where he had a concealed carry license.
But he faced up to 14 years in one of Hong Kong’s “correctional facilities” and a $12,800 fine for arriving with a firearm that was not registered in the repressive Chinese territory.
Private gun ownership is banned by the Chinese Communist Party in the tightly governed territory, which was rocked by a series of pro-democracy protests in 2019 and 2020.
The city’s police commissioner only grants it to police officers, armed security services and operators of exclusive shooting range clubs.
Wilson has been a strong gun advocate in his home state, supporting legislation this summer that would make it easier for Washington museums to preserve historic firearms without requiring background checks.
He had planned visits to Shanghai, Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia during his trip, but was ordered to surrender his travel documents before his first court date on October 23.
Chinese newspaper Sing Tao Daily reported that police were called when the senator angrily confronted photographers outside the courthouse and demanded they delete their photos before taking photos of her again.
He hid from photographers again today as he appeared at the West Kowloon District Court to learn his fate.
Chief Judge Don So agreed to a bond order rather than a plea deal to possession of an unlicensed firearm, saying he was leaning toward finding Wilson innocent.
This order requires Wilson to keep the peace and not commit any further firearms offenses for two years.
The judge said Wilson would be fined 2,000 Hong Kong dollars ($255) for violating the order if he fails to comply.
However, he could still face charges in the United States, where carrying firearms aboard an aircraft is illegal due to Transportation Security Administration restrictions.
Weapons can be carried in checked baggage, but the carrier must pack them in a container and report them to the airline at check-in.
The Transportation Security Administration told Dailymail.com that it is “taking this situation very seriously and is currently investigating the circumstances.”
A source suggested that staff did not discover the weapon when Wilson went through security at Portland International Airport and was not screened during the transfer in San Francisco because he “did not leave the sterile area.”
Wilson thanked Chinese authorities on his website, saying they had “behaved professionally and I commend them for their diligence.”
He told voters on his website that he had made a “mistake”: “I packed quickly and neglected to check the contents of my briefcase.”
“The Chinese authorities have behaved professionally and I commend them for their diligence,” he wrote
The senator spent three days in jail after being arrested at Hong Kong airport at the start of his vacation
The senator claimed he immediately handed the weapon over to officers at Hong Kong International Airport upon arrival before being arrested
“It was a mistake on my part and I regret it,” he added.
“I packed quickly and neglected to check the contents of my briefcase.
“I think we can all learn from what happened here.”
“Of course, you must always check your hand luggage before going through airport security. But more importantly, when you make a mistake like this, the right thing to do is show respect and take responsibility.”