A Washington state senator who carried a handgun onto a flight to Hong Kong has escaped a 14-year jail sentence after a court believed it was a ‘horrible accident’. Republican Jeff Wilson was seized at Hong Kong Airport on October 21 at the start of a five-week vacation to South-East Asia with his wife Trisha. He had passed through Portland and San Francisco airports with the gun in his briefcase and insisted he only found out it was there after he reached in for a ‘piece of gum’ during the flight.
‘Over the Pacific, I reached into my briefcase for gum and felt my gun instead,’ he explained on his website. ‘My heart sank. I understood immediately what had happened, and that my only option was to report to the proper authorities.’ The senator, who was elected in 2020, denied reports that the weapon was discovered during a search on arrival, insisting he ‘immediately went to customs officials and called their attention to the issue’, at the end of the 15-hour flight.
He said the revolver was unloaded and is registered in Washington , where he holds a concealed carry license. But he faced up to 14 years in one of Hong Kong’s ‘correctional facilities’ and a fine of $12,800 for arriving with a firearm not registered in the repressive Chinese territory. Private ownership of guns is outlawed 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 Commissioner of Police only grants them to police officers, armed security guard services, and operators of exclusive shooting range clubs.
Wilson has been a strong pro-gun advocate in his native state and sponsored a law this summer which made it easier for Washington’s museums to obtain historic firearms without the need for background checks. He had been planning visits to Shanghai, Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia on his trip but was ordered to surrender his travel documents ahead of his first court appearance 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 photographing them in turn.
He was hiding from photographers again today as he appeared at West Kowloon Magistrates Court to learn his fate. Principal Magistrate Don So approved a bind-over order rather than a plea to possessing an unlicensed firearm, saying he was inclined to believe Wilson was innocent. That order requires Wilson to keep the peace and avoid committing further firearms offenses for two years. The magistrate said Wilson would be fined 2,000 Hong Kong dollars ($255) for breaching the order if he didn’t comply.
But he could still face charges back in the US where carrying firearms on board a plane is illegal under Transportation Security Administration restrictions. Guns can be carried in hold luggage, but the carrier must pack them in a container and declare them to the airline while checking in. The Transportation Security Administration told Dailymail.com that it ‘takes this situation very seriously and is currently investigating the circumstances’. A source suggested that staff had failed to spot the gun when Wilson passed through security at Portland International Airport and was not checked while transferring at San Francisco because he ‘did not leave the sterile area’.
Wilson thanked the Chinese authorities on his website, saying they ‘conducted themselves in a professional manner, and I commend them for their diligence’. ‘This was a mistake on my part, and I regret it,’ he added. ‘I packed quickly and failed to check the contents of my briefcase. ‘I think we all can learn from what happened here. ‘First, of course, to always check your carry-on baggage before you go through airport security. But more important, when you make a mistake like this one, the right thing to do is to show respect and accept responsibility.’ Read the full story:
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