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Jeff Wilson, Washington state senator arrested in Hong Kong for having gun in carry-on, gets charge dismissed

A Hong Kong court dismissed a gun charge Monday against Washington state Sen. Jeff Wilson, who was arrested after he carried a gun into the Chinese territory in what he called an "honest mistake."

"This was a mistake on my part, and I regret it," Wilson said in a statement. "I packed quickly and failed to check the contents of my briefcase. Over the Pacific, I reached into my briefcase for gum and felt my gun instead. My heart sank."

The gun was an unloaded revolver, Wilson said. He was traveling to Hong Kong with his wife for a five-week vacation in Southeast Asia.

The Republican state senator self-declared that he was carrying the gun at Hong Kong's airport Oct. 21, has a clear criminal record in the territory and made his admission in an open manner, the prosecution said at Monday's court hearing.

Principal Magistrate Don So approved the arrangement for a bind-over order rather than a plea to possessing an unlicensed firearm, saying he was inclined to believe Wilson was innocent.

The bind-over 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 doesn't comply.

Washington state Sen. Jeff Wilson leaves the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts, in Hong Kong, China, Oct. 30, 2023.
Washington state Sen. Jeff Wilson leaves the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts, in Hong Kong, China, Oct. 30, 2023. Reuters/Tyrone Siu

With the case dispensed without a conviction, Wilson is free to leave the territory. A statement posted last week had said that while the gun was not registered in Hong Kong, it is registered in Washington.

Hong Kong has stricter gun laws than the United States. Those convicted of carrying a firearm without a license can be fined up to HK$100,000 ($12,800) and sentenced to up to 14 years in prison.

The court heard that Wilson had told a customs inspector it was "a horrible accident" after his arrest. His luggage had passed through security in Portland, Oregon, before he transited in San Francisco, he said during an earlier interview with the inspector.

Wilson said he was relieved that the matter could be resolved efficiently and apologized for the concern he created.

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