Gun in my briefcase? Oops. Legislator says weapon slipped his mind
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-San Bernardino) said he simply forgot to remove a gun from his carry-on luggage Wednesday and was detained by police as he tried to board a Sacramento-bound flight at Ontario International Airport.
Speaking to reporters outside the Assembly chambers, Donnelly called the incident an "unfortunate mistake," saying he put the gun in his briefcase Saturday while working in his garage and forgot about it. Donnelly said he regularly carries a firearm because he has received death threats, but he would not say whether he has a concealed weapons permit.
"I was released as soon as it was determined that I was not a threat," Donnelly said in a separate statement issued by his office. "I boarded the next flight without incident."
Authorities said they discovered a loaded .45-caliber Colt Mark IV pistol in the lawmaker's carry-on luggage as well as an ammunition magazine with an additional five rounds. Police said Donnelly was erroneously cited for carrying an unloaded firearm and will be sanctioned for carrying a loaded gun, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
This is not the first time Donnelly, a tea party conservative and fierce advocate for gun rights, has raised eyebrows. Elected to the Assembly in 2010, he offended some lawmakers by mounting antique rifles on his Capitol office wall, including a Winchester .32 Special. He is also known for his bombastic rhetoric, on and off the Assembly floor.
The incident elicited chortles in the Capitol on Wednesday as lawmakers returned for the year's legislative session.
Gil Duran, Gov. Jerry Brown's press secretary, took to Twitter and posted a link to the California Department of Justice's "Six Basic Gun Safety Rules."
"This is a teachable moment, people," he wrote. "Always -- ALWAYS! -- remember exactly where you left your half-loaded gat."
--Michael J. Mishak and Anthony York in Sacramento
Photo: Tim Donnelly, the only tea party member of the Assembly, in his Sacramento office in a file photo. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times