Chinese authorities have detained Washington state Sen. Jeff Wilson, a Republican, for unintentionally bringing a firearm in his carry-on bag at Hong Kong International Airport on Friday night.
It appears that Sen. Wilson unknowingly overlooked the presence of his pistol, which managed to slip through the security checkpoint at Portland International Airport, undetected, before he made a transfer in San Francisco and finally arrived in Hong Kong. The senator himself has admitted that it was an honest mistake, and he expects the situation to be resolved promptly.
According to Sen. Wilson, during his flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong, he grabbed a piece of gum from his carry-on bag when he discovered the unloaded revolver inside. His immediate response upon landing was to approach customs officials, drawing their attention to the issue.
The arrest ensued, charging him with possession of an unregistered firearm. However, the reports claiming that Hong Kong customs officials detected the gun independently during a bag check are inaccurate, as stated by the senator.
While Sen. Wilson has been released on bail, he has had to surrender his passport under local media’s report. If found guilty, he could potentially face a fine of $12,800 and up to 14 years in prison, although it is worth noting that judges in Hong Kong seldom impose sentences exceeding two years.
It should be noted that although the firearm is unregistered in Hong Kong, Sen. Wilson possesses a concealed carry permit in his home state, where the weapon is appropriately registered.
This incident transpired at the onset of Sen. Wilson’s planned personal vacation with his family, intending to visit various countries in Southeast Asia. Additionally, the senator, who also serves as a port commissioner in his hometown of Longview, Washington, was preparing to meet a coalition of counterparts in Shanghai.
An official from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), responsible for baggage screening at U.S. airports, acknowledged awareness of the incident and confirmed an ongoing investigation.
“Firearms are strictly prohibited within the secure area of airports and pose severe consequences for individuals intercepted at checkpoints while possessing such weapons,” the spokesman commented.
“Bringing a firearm to a TSA checkpoint can result in a penalty as high as $15,000, along with disqualification from TSA PreCheck for up to five years.” So far this year, TSA officers at Portland Airport have confiscated 43 firearms at their checkpoints. The internal investigation will have access to security footage and images captured by screening equipment before Sen. Wilson’s departure.
In 2022, the TSA registered a record high of over 6,540 firearms intercepted at security checkpoints throughout the United States, a significant increase from 1,913 in 2013.
It is important to note that travelers who wish to travel with a firearm may do so legally by keeping it locked in a hard-sided container within their checked baggage, provided they declare its presence to the airline during check-in, as stated by the TSA.