A Washington state senator was arrested at a Hong Kong airport for possession of a locally unregistered firearm, his office announced Monday.
Jeff Wilson, a Republican who represents parts of southwest Washington state, discovered the gun on his flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong while rummaging through his briefcase for a piece of chewing gum. gum, his office said in a statement.
Baggage screeners in Portland, Oregon, failed to notice the unloaded gun in his briefcase before he left for his trip, letting him pass through airport security, according to his office. When he landed at Hong Kong International Airport, he told customs authorities about the gun.
Mr. Wilson was arrested Friday evening and then released on bail Sunday, his office said. His next court hearing will be next Monday.
“It was an honest mistake,” Mr. Wilson said in the statement. “I expect the situation to be resolved shortly.”
The Transportation Security Administration, which handles passenger screening at U.S. airports, did not respond to emailed requests for comment Monday evening. The Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department declined to comment on Mr Wilson’s arrest, saying legal proceedings were ongoing.
Mr. Wilson, who was elected to the Washington Senate in 2020, sponsored legislation that would make it easier for museums to receive guns from gun collectors. The bill was passed this year.
According to his office’s statement, the pistol was properly registered in Washington and Mr. Wilson held a concealed weapons permit although the weapon was not registered in Hong Kong.
Mr. Wilson had begun a five-week personal vacation with his wife, his office said. He hoped to resume his planned trips to Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia once the problem in Hong Kong was resolved.
Under Hong Kong laws, carrying firearms without a license is punishable by up to 14 years in prison and a fine of up to 100,000 Hong Kong dollars, or approximately $12,800.
Officials in the United States have sounded the alarm over the growing prevalence of guns at airport security checkpoints. Passengers may travel with unloaded firearms in their checked baggage if they are enclosed in hard-sided containers. No firearms are allowed in carry-on baggage at any checkpoint, even if the passenger has a concealed weapon permit.