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Tea Party Leader Arrested for Gun at NY Airport

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on December 19, 2011 5:51 AM

A lawyer and high-profile Tea Party leader, arrested for trying to bring a gun on a plane, is facing a felony firearms charge.

Mark Meckler of Grass Valley, Calif., co-founder of the national Tea Party Patriots, was arrested at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Thursday, The New York Times reports. Meckler spent a day in jail, and was released following his arraignment Friday.

Meckler, 49, checked-in for a flight to Detroit while carrying a locked box containing a Glock pistol and 19 ammunition cartridges, The Times reports. Meckler said he needed the gun because he receives threats.

Mark Meckler presented the locked gun box to a ticket agent and disclosed its contents. The agent followed procedure and called police, an airport police spokesman told The Times.

The arrested Tea Party leader "thought he was good to go because he has a carry permit in California, but that does not cover New York," the police spokesman said. "Folks who want to carry a firearm on a flight have to do their homework."

Each state has its own gun laws, some more restrictive than others. While some states recognize "right to carry" gun permits issued by other states, New York apparently is not one of them.

As for bringing a gun onto a plane, TSA rules actually allow for that -- but only if the gun is unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. Locked gun boxes must be checked-in as baggage or placed inside checked bags, as they are prohibited from carry-on bags. Gun owners must also carry the proper permits.

Mark Meckler's lawyer insists the Tea Party leader was correct in his reading of the law, The Times reports. In a statement, the lawyer emphasized Meckler's gun was unloaded; in a tweet, Meckler himself emphasized his gun was "in a locked, TSA approved case."

The airport police spokesman sees it differently. "It just as well may have been (loaded), as the ammo was right there, accessible," he told The Times.

Mark Meckler faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted, the New York Daily News reports. However, travelers who appear to be trying to comply with gun laws are usually just hit with a fine, according to the Associated Press. The Tea Party leader's next court date is set for Jan. 12.

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