A U.S. State Senator has been arrested in Hong Kong after he accidentally packed a handgun in his personal hand luggage and took it on a commercial flight to the Chinese territory, the senator’s office has confirmed.
Senator Jeff Wilson, 19th Legislative District for the State of Washington, says taking the handgun onboard the plane was an “honest mistake” and that he hopes the situation will be “resolved shortly”.
Wilson says he passed through a security checkpoint at Portland Airport last Thursday, where TSA officers failed to detect the gun and allowed him onto the first of two flights to Hong Kong with a connection in San Francisco.
It was only when he was on the San Francisco to Hong Kong leg of his journey that he realized the pistol was in his briefcase. Senator Wilson’s office has denied media reports that the gun was only discovered as he passed through the customs channel on arrival in Hong Kong.
Wilson did not, however, apparently alert airline crew to the presence of the gun but instead informed customs officers after the plane had landed on Friday night.
The 63-year-old Republican senator, who was travelling to Hong Kong with his wife as part of a five-week Southeast Asia vacation, was arrested and later charged with possession of an unregistered firearm,
Wilson was released on bail on Sunday morning after paying HK$20,000 in bail.
“While his pistol was not registered in Hong Kong, it is properly registered in Washington state,” his office said in a statement addressing the incident. Wilson also has a concealed pistol license for the firearm, which is believed to have been unloaded.
Although Wilson holds a concealed pistol license, under U.S. law, passengers are not allowed to bring handguns into the cabin of a commercial flight under any circumstances.
State laws vary widely, but under federal law, the TSA has the power to slap anyone who attempts to bring a gun through a security checkpoint with a civil penalty of nearly $15,000.
Of course, gun laws in many foreign countries are very different to the United States and come with hefty penalties, which can often include a prison sentence. These types of cases can often take months to resolve fully.
Wilson is, however, by no means the first U.S. citizen to have made this mistake, and on occasion, even flight attendants and pilots have been arrested outside of the United States after accidentally taking their firearms on overseas trips.
Wilson is expected to appear in a local magistrates court in Hong Kong on October 30 where he may be given the opportunity to enter a plea.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.