Who expected this?
Chinese authorities apprehended Washington state Senator Jeff Wilson, a Republican, on account of inadvertently carrying a firearm in his luggage when he arrived at Hong Kong International Airport on Friday evening.
According to Fox, a statement on Senator Wilson’s official website, he claimed to be unaware that his pistol was in a carry-on bag, and it inadvertently passed through a security checkpoint at Portland International Airport before he transferred flights in San Francisco and eventually arrived in Hong Kong. He expressed, “It was a genuine mistake, and I anticipate the matter will be resolved shortly.”
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is currently investigating the incident in Portland, while Senator Wilson faces charges in Hong Kong.
According to Senator Wilson, he made the discovery when he was halfway across the Pacific Ocean on a flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong. He reached into his carry-on bag to retrieve a piece of gum, only to feel the unloaded revolver inside the bag. His office issued a statement, saying, “Upon landing, he promptly approached customs officials and alerted them to the situation.”
Subsequently, he was arrested on charges of possessing an unregistered firearm. Contrary to some reports, Senator Wilson asserted that Hong Kong customs officials did not independently discover the gun during a bag check.
Although Wilson was released on bail, he had to surrender his passport, as reported by local media. If convicted, he could face a fine of $12,800 and up to 14 years in prison, although it is worth noting that Hong Kong judges are known to rarely impose sentences longer than two years.
Despite the weapon being unregistered in Hong Kong, Senator Wilson holds a concealed carry permit in his home state, where the firearm is properly registered.
This incident occurred at the outset of a personal vacation that Senator Wilson was taking with his family, which included visits to several Southeast Asian countries. The senator, who also serves as a port commissioner in his hometown of Longview, Washington, had plans to meet with counterparts in Shanghai.
A spokesperson for the TSA, responsible for baggage screening at U.S. airports, confirmed awareness of the incident and an ongoing investigation. The spokesperson emphasized, “Firearms are strictly prohibited in secure airport areas, and bringing one through a TSA checkpoint can result in severe consequences, including a penalty of up to $15,000 and a TSA PreCheck suspension of up to five years.”
In 2022, TSA officers at Portland International Airport had already intercepted 43 firearms at security checkpoints, and nationally, over 6,540 firearms were discovered at airport security checkpoints, marking a record high, as compared to 1,913 in 2013.
For travelers who wish to fly with a firearm, they are allowed to do so as long as it is securely stored in a locked, hard-sided container within their checked baggage, and they declare it to the airline during the check-in process, as per TSA guidelines.