Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, was arrested Thursday at New York's LaGuardia Airport and faces up to 15 years in prison for illegally traveling with a handgun.

He presented a locked gun box to a Delta Airlines employee during a preflight check-in, which contained a Glock 27 pistol and nineteen 9mm cartridges, according to prosecutors. Meckler told authorities he had the handgun because he gets threats. But he does not have a New York State carry permit.

Meckler was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, a Class C felony, and released following arraignment.

"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," said Meckler's lawyer, Brian Stapleton, in a statement.

"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."

Meckler acted as a spokesperson for the Tea Party Patriots and occasionally appeared on national news outlets.

“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 District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in a statement.

"Otherwise, they may find themselves being arrested and charged with a felony – as is what occurred in this case.”

Photo credit: Ken Lunde