TSA investigating gun incident that led to Washington state Senator’s arrest in Hong Kong

The Transportation Security Administration announced Tuesday that the gun-related incident involving Washington state Sen. Jeff Wilson over the weekend in Hong Kong is currently under investigation.

“TSA is aware that a passenger on a flight departing from Portland International Airport Friday (Oct. 20) passed through security and traveled with an unloaded firearm in his carry-on bag,” a spokesperson for the agency said in a news release. “The individual was arrested upon arrival in Hong Kong. TSA takes this situation very seriously and is currently investigating the circumstances.”

Wilson, a 63-year-old Republican lawmaker from the 19th Legislative District, said Monday in a news release that the incident “was an honest mistake.”

The senator went through security in Portland and had a connecting flight in San Francisco, but “did not leave the sterile area and did not go through security screening at SFO,” the TSA spokesperson said.

While flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong, Wilson said he reached into his briefcase to look for gum and found the pistol. He said that he notified customs officials when the plane landed.

He was charged with possession of an unregistered firearm, released on $2,556 bail and his next hearing date is scheduled for Oct. 30, according to The Standard, a news outlet in China that first broke the news. Wilson was required to surrender his travel documents while he awaits that hearing.

The TSA spokesperson also noted that an internal investigation will utilize a “review of closed circuit television as well as images from security screening equipment.”

“Appropriate corrective action may be required with additional training,” TSA officials added.

The agency said that their officers across the country “are catching firearms at checkpoints at a record pace.”

Portland International Airport TSA officers have intercepted 43 firearms at security checkpoints so far in 2023, they said.

A quick glance at the list of news releases from the agency nationwide offers a glimpse into how frequently travelers in America are bringing guns, sometimes loaded, to security checkpoints at airports.

The TSA spokesperson said that the penalty for bringing a gun through a checkpoint can be as high as $15,000. Individuals who are caught with firearms at screening checkpoints are also “ineligible for TSA precheck for up to five years.”

WA state lawmaker says gun in carry-on bag was ‘honest mistake’ after Hong Kong arrest