Rep. John Hostettler (search) of Indiana was briefly detained Tuesday when airport security workers found a handgun in his briefcase as he was going through a checkpoint on a trip back to Washington.
The five-term Republican congressman was released after he was issued a citation by airport police for a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed deadly weapon. The charge carries a maximum year in jail and up to a $500 fine.
Hostettler was preparing to board a US Airways (search) flight at Louisville International Airport when the gun was found. The lawmaker said he had placed the handgun in his briefcase early in Congress' two-week spring recess, then forgot about it.
He called the incident a "rather stupid mistake. ... I have put a lot of people through a lot of needless angst and concern about this when I should have definitely rechecked my luggage."
Hostettler said he has carried a handgun for protection for most of his congressional career whenever he travels in his southwestern Indiana district.
He said he has a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Indiana, and that Indiana has an agreement with Kentucky under which a license in either of the adjacent states is good in the other.
Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for the federal Transportation Security Administration (search), said screeners at the airport intercepted the loaded 9mm semiautomatic handgun from carry-on luggage about 10:45 a.m.
Hostettler said the gun had a cartridge containing 14 bullets, but the chamber was empty and the safety was on.
Hostettler has represented his district in southwestern Indiana since 1995 and is seeking re-election this year to a sixth term.