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Madison Cawthorn was caught with a loaded gun at Charlotte's airport, police say

04-26-2022 Delta Checkpoint-min.jpg
Transportation Security Administration
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The TSA found this 9 mm handgun Tuesday morning in a bag carried by U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police confiscated the weapon and cited Cawthorn for a city ordinance violation.

U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn was caught with a loaded gun in a bag at Charlotte’s airport on Tuesday morning, local police said.

The Transportation Security Agency confiscated a Staccato 9 mm handgun after it was detected at a checkpoint at Charlotte Douglas International Airport about 9 a.m., the agency confirmed to WFAE. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department confirmed Cawthorn owned the gun and described him as "cooperative" during the incident.

Police issued Cawthorn a citation for possession of a dangerous weapon on city property — a local ordinance violation — and released the congressman. CMPD describes that as standard procedure for the violation. Cawthorn’s gun was confiscated by officers, the department said in a tweet.

As of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Cawthorn had not publicly addressed the matter. His spokesperson, Luke Ball, did not immediately respond to a request from WFAE for comment.

(You can read the incident report from CMPD, which has Cawthorn's name redacted, here.)

It’s the latest in a string of headline-getting public safety incidents for the embattled first-term Republican from North Carolina’s 11th District, which is anchored by the Asheville area. Cawthorn has had three speeding tickets since he’s been in office since early 2021. A dashcam video released last week shows a North Carolina State Highway Patrol trooper confiscating Cawthorn’s driver’s license in Cleveland County after pulling the congressman over for expired tags.

He also grabbed headlines for bringing knives into places they weren’t allowed. AVL Watchdog reported Cawthorn attended an event at Western Carolina University with a knife visible in a pocket — just weeks after carrying a knife at the Henderson County Courthouse. A complaint was filed by a resident over the courthouse incident. There were at least two other times he was spotted with a knife on school properties, the Citizen-Times of Asheville reported last fall.

And it’s the second time the 26-year-old Cawthorn has been in the news for bringing a gun to an airport since he’s been in office. In February 2021, he attempted to bring a handgun through security at Asheville Regional Airport, according to the News & Observer of Raleigh.

Cawthorn is a political firebrand who’s being challenged by several other Republicans in the May 17 primary. Some of his comments and actions have irked leaders in his own party, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who endorsed one of Cawthorn’s opponents in the primary.

A record number of guns were confiscated in North Carolina's airports last year, according to the TSA. Charlotte Douglas topped the list, with 106 guns found in carry-on bags.

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