Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots and one of the most prominent spokesmen for the grassroots movement, was arrested at LaGuardia Airport on Thursday after trying to check in a handgun on his flight.
According to the Queens District Attorney’s office, Meckler arrived at the airport with the gun, a Glock 27, and ammunition locked in a safe and presented it to the flight attendant at the Delta counter. He allegedly told authorities that he needed the gun for protection after receiving threats, but did not have a New York State license to carry the weapon. He’s being charged with second degree possession of an illegal weapon, a charge that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
“Before leaving home, passengers should acquaint themselves with the weapon laws of the jurisdiction that they are visiting and comply with any and all legal requirements if they choose to travel with a weapon,” Queens DA Richard Brown said in a statement. “Otherwise, they may find themselves being arrested and charged with a felony - as is what occurred in this case.”
Meckler’s lawyer did not dispute the basic facts of the story, but said that his client followed routine procedure for transporting a weapon. In an e-mail to reporters, attorney Brian Stapleton wrote:
“Mark Meckler, an attorney and National Coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, who holds a concealed-carry permit from the state of California, today was charged with a firearms violation at LaGuardia Airport in New York City. While in temporary transit through the state of New York in possession of an unloaded, lawful firearm that was locked in a TSA-approved safe, he legally declared his possession of the firearm in his checked baggage at the ticket counter as required by law and in a manner approved by TSA and the airline, yet was arrested by port authority for said possession.
A spokesman for the Queens DA, Kevin Ryan, told TPM that the legal issue wasn’t whether Meckler followed airline regulations regarding safe transportation of a handgun, the issue was that he did not have a carry permit for New York state, which has strict requirements for handguns.
“We get 50 or 60 case a year of people transporting weapons at the airport which may be legal in their state, but because they’re not licensed for New York they run into trouble,” Ryan said.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.