Washington State Senator Jeff Wilson Acquitted of Illegal Firearm Possession in Hong Kong

Washington State Senator Jeff Wilson Acquitted of Illegal Firearm Possession in Hong Kong

A Hong Kong court has acquitted Washington state Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, of possessing an unlicensed firearm in the Chinese territory. This acquittal comes after Sen. Wilson brought a gun into Hong Kong, which he claims was an “honest mistake.”

Sen. Wilson was granted a conditional discharge by the Hong Kong court, provided he commits no further firearms offenses in the region over the next two years. This discharge is backed by a bind-over order, which requires Sen. Wilson to keep the peace and avoid any firearm-related crimes in Hong Kong for the stipulated time period. Should he breach this order, he will be fined 2,000 Hong Kong dollars ($255).

The incident occurred on October 21, when Sen. Wilson was arrested at Hong Kong International Airport after reporting to customs officials that he had discovered an unloaded revolver in his carry-on bag during his flight from San Francisco. This weapon had passed undetected through security at Portland International Airport in Oregon.

In a statement, Sen. Wilson praised the professionalism of the Chinese authorities. “The Chinese authorities conducted themselves in a professional manner, and I commend them for their diligence. The mistake, after all, was fully mine. I am relieved we were able to resolve this matter efficiently, and I want to apologize for the concern I created,” he said.

U.S. Washington state senator Jeff Wilson leaves the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts, in Hong Kong, China October 30, 2023. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Upon discovering the firearm mid-flight, Sen. Wilson faced a moral and legal dilemma. He could have chosen to remain silent and hope that the weapon went undetected upon landing in Hong Kong. However, Sen. Wilson chose to report the firearm to customs officials, a decision that ultimately led to his arrest but may have also played a role in the court’s decision to acquit him.

The case highlights the stark difference in gun laws between the United States and Hong Kong. In the U.S., Sen. Wilson had legally registered the firearm in his home state of Washington. However, in Hong Kong, the laws surrounding gun possession are much stricter, with penalties for carrying an unlicensed firearm including fines of up to 100,000 Hong Kong dollars ($12,800) and up to 14 years in prison.

This incident has also raised questions about security protocols at American airports. Despite the strict restrictions placed by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on carrying firearms in carry-on bags, Sen. Wilson’s firearm passed undetected through a metal detector at Portland International Airport and security in San Francisco. The TSA has stated that it is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding this security breach.

Sen. Wilson, who was traveling to Southeast Asia for a five-week holiday with his wife, has since resumed his travels. He has expressed a desire to move on from this incident and encourages others to learn from his mistake. “First, of course, to always check your carry-on baggage before you go through airport security,” he said. “But more important, when you make a mistake like this one, the right thing to do is to show respect and accept responsibility.”

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