Wilson arrested in Hong Kong
Senator represents Wahkiakum County in the state senate, calls it an 'honest mistake'
October 26, 2023
Washington State Sen. Jeff Wilson was arrested in Hong Kong on Saturday, after airport security discovered an unlicensed gun in his luggage, according to a newspaper account.
Through his spokesman, Wilson said the alleged offense was "an honest mistake."
Wilson, a prominent local Republican, businessman, community booster and leader of the GOP's conservative wing, was taken into custody after a security screener spotted the gun, according to the Hong Kong-based publication The Standard and distributed by The Messenger News.
Wilson, 63, did not have a license for the weapon, according to the news accounts. He was granted $2,556 bail and faces a court hearing on Oct. 30. The Standard reported that he also had to surrender his travel documents to the government as he awaits his court date.
Contacted via text message, Wilson, 63, referred inquiries to his spokesman, Erik Smith.
Smith told The Seattle Times that the senator was starting a five-week personal vacation to Southeast Asia when he departed Portland International Airport. He inadvertently packed a pistol in his carry-on bag. The gun was not spotted by TSA airport security and Wilson only realized he had packed it when he was mid-flight and reached for some gum in his bag, Smith said.
Once Wilson landed in Hong Kong, he alerted customs authorities to the gun and was arrested, Smith told The Times. Wilson has a lawyer.
The Standard reported that Wilson "verbally abused" reporters who took pictures of him and his wife leaving court and demanded they delete them.
Wilson, who also is a Port of Longview commissioner, was first elected to the Washington State Senate in 2020 and has represented the state's 19th District since then.
He is the former owner and operator of Cowlitz Clean Sweep and has been involved in several high-profile local community causes, such as the restoration of the Shay Locomotive at the Longview Public Library and efforts to clean up hypodermic needles discarded by drug users.
The exact charge and potential penalties that Wilson faces were not immediately available.
In the United States, it is legal to transport unloaded firearms in checked baggage and must be secured in a locked, hard-sided container. They must be declared at the ticket counter. Some airlines have additional requirements.
The U.S. Transportation Safety Administration reported stopping 3,251 firearms at U.S. airport checkpoints in the first half of this year - or about eight firearms per million passengers (down slightly from the hear before). About 92% of the guns were loaded. Laws and penalties vary by jurisdictions.
Attempts to contact the U.S. Consulate Generalin Hong Kong - a branch of the State Department - were not immediately successful, perhaps due of the time differential.
State Sen. John Braun, a Centralia Republican and GOP leader, said Monday morning that he had not heard anything more than the press accounts and said it is too early say how the allegations might affect Wilson's role in the Legislature.
Hong Kong has far stricter gun control rules than the U.S., and gun deaths there number in the single digits annually. Gun ownership is rare. In a comparison of the rate of privately owned guns in 206 countries, Hong Kong ranked at No. 121, according to research from the University of Sydney in Australia. Private gun ownership is not protected or guaranteed by laws as it is under the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment.
In Hong Kong, only licensed gun owners may lawfully acquire, possess or transfer a firearm or ammunition, according to the University of Sydney research. In addition, an understanding of firearm safety and the law, tested in a theoretical and/or practical training course, is required for a firearm license.