TSA: Airport security finds loaded gun in Cawthorn's bag

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A loaded gun was found in North Carolina U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn's carry-on bag at an airport security checkpoint Tuesday — the second time he has been stopped with a gun at an airport in the past 14 months, officials said.

When Cawthorn went through checkpoint D at Charlotte Douglas International Airport with the gun, a 9 mm Staccato C2, around 9 a.m., Transportation Security Administration officers notified Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers on standby in the area, TSA spokesperson R. Carter Langston said.

Responding officers identified the 26-year-old Republican as the owner of the bag where the gun was found, police said in a statement. Cawthorn acknowledged that the gun was his and cooperated with officers, authorities said. He was issued a citation for possession of a dangerous weapon on city property, a misdemeanor. Cawthorn was released but police held on to the firearm, as is routine.

The infraction is punishable by civil penalties, including a fine of up to $13,900 depending on certain factors, such as whether a firearm is loaded and multiple offenses, Langston said. In this case the firearm was loaded.

Langston said this was the second time in recent history that a gun was found in Cawthorn’s carry-on bag. The first was at an Asheville Regional Airport checkpoint in February 2021.

TSA officers have intercepted more than 1,800 firearms at checkpoints so far this year, Langston said.

A spokesperson for Cawthorn’s office and his campaign didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

After winning a GOP congressional primary runoff in 2020 over then-President Donald Trump’s pick, Cawthorn won the general election at age 25 and has became one of Trump’s strongest supporters. Trump recently featured Cawthorn as a rally speaker and endorsed him for reelection.

Fellow Republicans in North Carolina have spoken out against his reelection, however, including U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, who has endorsed a state legislator for the seat. Cawthorn has drawn criticism for recent incendiary comments, including one in which he called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “thug.”

The airport checkpoint incidents haven’t been Cawthorn's only brushes with law enforcement. Last month, for the third time in five months, he was cited by state troopers for a traffic violation, including driving with a revoked license. He is scheduled to appear in court on May 6.

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