Charges filed against gun-carrying California lawmaker [Updated]
The San Bernardino County district attorney's office Thursday filed criminal charges against a California lawmaker who attempted to take a loaded gun onto an airplane.
Tim Donnelly, a Republican from San Bernardino and the Assembly's lone tea party member, was charged with carrying a loaded firearm in public without a concealed weapons permit and possessing a gun in an airport. Both offenses are misdemeanors, punishable by up to 18 months in County Jail and $2,000 in fines.
A vocal advocate for gun rights, Donnelly was detained by police at Ontario International Airport last month after screeners at the security checkpoint discovered a loaded .45-caliber Colt Mark IV pistol and an ammunition magazine with an additional five rounds in his carry-on luggage.
The assemblyman, who was headed for a Sacramento-bound flight to attend the opening of the new legislative year, later characterized the incident as an “unfortunate mistake.” He told reporters that he had simply forgotten to remove the gun from his briefcase after placing it there while working in his home garage.
On Friday, Donnelly issued a statement in which he said he had taken responsibility for "an innocent mistake."
"I have fully cooperated with law enforcement officials and have been candid about this matter publicly," he said. "I am deeply honored to represent the people of the 59th District and regret any inconvenience this has caused to those involved. I look forward to moving beyond this incident by continuing to focus on getting Californians back to work and getting our economy back on track.“
The lawmaker told reporters last month that he regularly carried a firearm because he had received death threats since proposing to roll back state financial aid for illegal immigrants.
[Updated -- 1:38 p.m., Feb. 24 -- In a statement, Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare) said Donnelly had the support of the GOP caucus.
“Like anyone else, Tim is entitled to due process. Let’s allow the legal process to run its course before anyone rushes to judgment," she said. "In my conversations with Tim, he has told me this was an honest mistake and that he’s been fully cooperative with authorities. Assembly Republicans stand united with him in our legislative priorities of taxpayer protection and job creation.”]
Donnelly, a former member of the volunteer border-patrol group known as the Minutemen, was elected to the Assembly in 2010 on an anti-illegal-immigration platform.
He has invited controversy, offending some lawmakers last year by mounting antique rifles on his Capitol office wall. He is also known for his bombastic rhetoric, on and off the Assembly floor. Last year, he opposed a bill that became law Jan. 1 banning the open carrying of handguns; he called it "a form of tyranny."
He tried — and failed — to import Arizona's controversial immigration law to California and led an unsuccessful campaign to repeal the state's DREAM Act, which gives illegal immigrants access to private financial aid at public universities and community colleges beginning this year and access to publicly funded aid in 2013.
--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: Tim Donnelly, the only tea party member of the Assembly, in his Sacramento office. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times