OLYMPIA — State Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, was arrested in Hong Kong Friday for possessing a firearm not licensed there, and related charges, a spokesperson confirmed Monday.
Wilson could not immediately reached for comment via phone, but he said in a statement that “it was an honest mistake. And I expect the situation to be resolved shortly.”
Wilson was embarking on a five-week personal vacation to Southeast Asia when he departed Portland International Airport, said spokesperson Erik Smith, who could not confirm the date of departure or the airline Wilson used.
Smith said Wilson inadvertently packed a revolver in his carry-on bag. The gun was not spotted by security at the airport and Wilson only realized he had packed it when he was midflight 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. He was jailed and later posted bail that was set at 20,000 of a currency that Smith could not confirm, though news outlet The Standard reported bail was HK$20,000. Wilson has surrendered his passport and the firearm, Smith said. He is awaiting a hearing scheduled for Oct. 30 and has legal counsel.
Smith said the gun is properly licensed and registered in the United States, and that Wilson is taking the vacation at his personal expense and is not representing the state Senate. However, Wilson was planning to meet with certain officials, such as officials with the port of Shanghai, Smith said. Wilson also sits on the commission of the Port of Longview.
“We are learning about the incident with Sen. Wilson at the same time as the press and public here in America,” Senate Republican Leader John Braun, of Centralia, said in a statement. “As I understand it, this was an honest mistake. I do not have any additional information to share at this point, but we are watching the situation closely. That said, I hope that this can be resolved in a timely manner.”
According to the TSA, firearms can only be brought on commercial flights if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and checked.
Last year, transportation security officers detected 108 firearms in carry-on luggage in Oregon, a record number, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Seventy-eight of those were found at PDX, which was a record for the airport, too. Firearms were found at a higher rate at PDX — about ten per one million passengers screened — than the national average. The airport screened about 7.7 million passengers in 2022.
Kathleen McDonald, TSA Federal Security Director for Oregon, said in a statement when the statistics were released in January that it was her hope that they “serve as a wake-up call for those who choose to travel with a firearm.”
“This is not a new problem, but it is one that must be addressed since we have reached an unacceptable level (of) firearms coming through our security checkpoints,” McDonald said. “We are pleading with the traveling public to double-check the contents of your carry-on luggage and follow the proper procedures for traveling with firearms.”