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California lawmaker detained at airport over gun

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California lawmaker who is a vocal advocate for gun rights was briefly detained at an airport on Wednesday after bringing a loaded gun to a security checkpoint, authorities said.

California state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican, was cited and released, Los Angeles Airport Police said in a statement. Donnelly said he forgot he had packed the gun in a carry-on bag.

He was stopped at a U.S. Transportation Security Administration X-ray screening station when a .45-caliber Colt handgun was discovered, said Nico Melendez, a spokesman for the agency.

Donnelly was on his way to board a Southwest Airlines flight at Ontario International Airport, about 40 west of Los Angeles. The flight was destined for the state capital Sacramento.

His gun had four rounds inside and a spare magazine had an additional five rounds, Melendez said.

"When I arrived at the security check point, an X-ray machine revealed that I had forgotten to remove a gun from my carry-on luggage," Donnelly said in a written statement.

"At that time, I was questioned by airport police, cited for possession of an unloaded firearm. I was released as soon as it was determined that I was not a threat. I boarded the next flight without incident," he said.

Donnelly was mistakenly cited for possession of an unloaded firearm, but his citation would be changed to possession of a loaded gun because the weapon had rounds inside, airport police said in a statement.

The gun was handed over to the Ontario Police Department.

The citation for possession of a gun is a misdemeanor, and Donnelly faces a maximum of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, Airport Police spokeswoman Sergeant Belinda Nettles said.

TSA agents found more than 1,200 handguns in carry-on bags at U.S. airports in 2011, Melendez said.

Donnelly has been a vocal advocate for gun rights, and he sharply criticized California Governor Jerry Brown last year when the Democrat signed into law a ban on openly carrying handguns in the state.

Donnelly, 45, was due to appear in court at a later date for bringing a gun to the airport, police said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis, Mary Slosson and Dan Whitcomb)