A California assemblyman detained for trying to bring a loaded gun on an airplane said it was a mistake, but that he's usually armed because of the death threats he's received for his anti-illegal immigration views.
Tim Donnelly, a Tea Party-backed Republican from San Bernardino, told reporters he forgot to remove the gun from his briefcase before heading to the airport Wednesday, calling it "an unfortunate mistake."
Security screeners spotted the loaded .45-caliber Colt Mark IV pistol and an ammunition magazine with an additional five rounds in his carry-on luggage as the assemblyman was headed for a Sacramento-bound flight, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was briefly detained, cited and then released. He faces a maximum punishment of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Donnelly said he "tends to always be armed" because of death threats he's received over of his fierce anti-illegal immigration views. He's launched a referendum to overturn the Dream Act -- California's new law that allows illegals to qualify for state-funded financial aid to pay for college -- and is the founder of a local chapter of the Minuteman Project, a citizen volunteer border patrol group.
He said everything started Saturday when he was in his garage with a gun on a nearby workbench, according to the Sacramento Bee.
"My wife came home and I haven't wanted to go into a lot of the detail with her about this, so I stuck it in the nearest bag," he said.
Donnelly said he forgot to take the gun out, even after entering the airport, and that the briefcase "was about as heavy as it is when I carry my laptop, so it didn't register."
The assemblyman said he was standing in his socks waiting for his briefcase to clear security when an airport screener's facial expression suddenly changed and a supervisor was called.
But despite Donnelly's claim about receiving death threats, neither the offices of the California Assembly speaker nor the sergeant at arms, which provides security for members, said he's reported any such threats to them or requested extra security, according to the LA Times.
Donnelly was elected in 2010 on a primarily anti-illegal immigration platform.