Hong Kong court dismisses firearms charge against Wash. state senator

U.S. Republican state Sen. Jeff Wilson (2-R) poses with his wife and lawyers outside the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts in Hong Kong, China, on Monday.. Wilson was arrested for carrying a gun in his luggage without a license when he was flying to Hong Kong and released on a two-year good behavior bind-over order. Photo by Bertha Wang/EPA-EFE

Oct. 30 (UPI) -- A Hong Kong court on Monday acquitted a Washington state Republican senator who was charged with a firearms offense last week after he was arrested at the Chinese city's international airport with an unloaded gun in his carry-on luggage.

State Sen. Jeff Wilson was arrested at Hong Kong International Airport on Oct. 23 after informing customs agents on his arrival for a five-week Southeast Asian vacation with family that he had found the gun in his briefcase mid-flight from San Francisco.

Wilson was charged with possession of an unregistered firearm. The Republican has said that though the weapon is not registered in China, it is in the United States.

The Republican said the weapon was inadvertently left in his luggage, and passed through airport security in both Portland and San Francisco.

Wilson appeared Monday in a West Kowloon Magistrates' Courtroom where Principal Magistrate Don So handed the America a bind-over order, stating he will neither be punished nor receive a criminal conviction if he maintains good behavior in China for two years, the Hong Kong Free Press reported.

Punishment for failure to uphold the bind-over will be a roughly $255 fine.

So said that despite unknowns in the case -- such as how he planned to use an unloaded gun for self-defense and how that gun made it through two U.S. airports without discovery -- she was inclined to believe he did bring it accidentally into the Asian country, according to the local paper.

In a statement after the verdict was announced, Wilson explained he had packed quickly and failed to check the contents of the briefcase until he was over the Pacific Ocean.

"My heart sank," Wilson said on his discovery of the weapon.

"I understood immediately what had happened, and that my only option was to report to the proper authorities, cooperate fully and respect the laws of the land where my plane was about to touch down."

In the statement, Wilson admitted that he made a mistake while praising the Chinese authorities for their professionalism.

"I am relieved we were able to resolve this matter efficiently, and I want to apologize for the concern I created," he said.