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U.S. state Senator Jeff Wilson arrested in Hong Kong for having gun in carry-on bag

Hong Kong — A U.S. state senator was granted bail in Hong Kong on Monday shortly after he was arrested for having a pistol in his carry-on luggage during a flight to the city. Republican Jeff Wilson from Washington state said he was charged with possession of an unregistered firearm and had a court hearing set for October 30.

Wilson was arrested at the Hong Kong airport Friday night after arriving on a flight from San Francisco.

"It was an honest mistake, and I expect the situation to be resolved shortly," his office said in a statement Monday.

The state legislator said he did not realize his pistol was in his briefcase when he passed through U.S. airport security and only discovered the unloaded weapon mid-flight.

U.S. state Sen. Jeff Wilson (R-Washington) is seen in a publicity photo from his official website. Sen. Jeff Wilson

Wilson said he reported the issue to customs officials after the plane landed.

Possession of arms or ammunition without a license in Hong Kong carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail and a HK$100,000 ($12,800) fine.

Wilson said he was travelling with his wife on a five-week personal vacation to Southeast Asia.

A Hong Kong magistrate on Monday granted Wilson's bail, confiscated his travel documents, and ordered him not to leave the city, according to Hong Kong broadsheet Sing Tao Daily.

In a statement, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration said it was "aware that a passenger on a flight departing from Portland International Airport (PDX) Saturday (10/21) passed through security and traveled with an unloaded firearm in his carry-on bag," and that it was "currently investigating the circumstances."

Record number of guns seized at U.S. airports 02:19

"TSA officers nationwide are catching firearms at checkpoints," the agency noted, with a warning that traveling with a gun could prove an "expensive mistake for those who are stopped at checkpoints," as in can carry a fine of up to $15,000.

The TSA said in January that it had confiscated more than 6,542 firearms from airport passengers in 2022 — the highest number it had ever recorded. 

Washington state's Senate Republican leader John Braun said he was watching the situation closely and hoped it would be resolved in a timely manner.

"We are learning about the incident with (Wilson) at the same time as the press and public here in America. As I understand it, this was an honest mistake," Braun wrote in a statement.

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