Tea Party Patriots co-founder arrested in New York

NEW YORK Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:19pm EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A co-founder of the conservative Tea Party Patriots group was arrested at a New York airport on Thursday for gun possession, authorities said.

Mark Meckler, 49, was charged with illegally traveling with a pistol after he was arrested at 5.30 a.m. at LaGuardia airport, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.

Meckler presented a locked gun box, which contained a pistol and 19 cartridges, at a Delta Airlines counter as he checked in for a flight. He has a California permit to carry the gun but not a New York state permit, authorities said.

While Meckler faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. A law enforcement source said that in similar cases the weapon was typically confiscated and the defendant fined.

Meckler allegedly told authorities that he carried the gun because he had received death threats.

Meckler co-founded the Tea Party Patriots, one of the biggest groups within the grassroots fiscal conservative Tea Party movement, which emerged in 2009 and has helped elect dozens of Republicans.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Edith Honan, Editing by Sandra Maler)

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