Rep. Madison Cawthorn tried to board plane with gun; could face fine, status loss

ASHEVILLE -- U.S. House Member Madison Cawthorn was taken by airport police with his gun. He will likely face a federal penalty and lose a special security status. Local and federal officials confirmed that.According to officials at Asheville Regional Airport, the Republican congressman from Western North Carolina's 11th District tried to board a plane on Feb. 13, but Transportation Security Administration workers discovered an unloaded gun and a loaded magazine in his carry-on bag.Redacted incident reports and radio traffic recordings by police described the weapon as a "Glock 9mm" handgun.Cawthorn's spokesman answered questions July 30 by saying that he brought the gun accidentally. According to reports and other information obtained through a public records request, Cawthorn was not charged. Tina Kinsey, spokeswoman, stated that this is a common outcome.Before the vote on Pennsylvania's electoral votes, Madison Cawthorn speaks to the House Floor."In 2021, eight firearms have been reported at the checkpoint and in each case, no criminal charges have been filed," Kinsey stated. He added that the firearms of the passengers were secured and that they were permitted to travel without them.Kinsey stated that Cawthorn had his gun at the airport and that he took it with him after he flew.The recordings show an officer repeating to another officer several times that he was found with a gun.He said, "Elected official Madison Cawthorn with a firearm."The police then discuss the gun and at one point suggested that Cawthorn might take it to his car. They later stated that they would secure the gun because Cawthorn's flight is in seven minutes.According to Mark Howell, spokesperson for TSA, the criminal rules regarding guns at airports can vary from one place to another.During the federal government shutdown, Asheville Regional Airport will continue to operate as normal. TSA security personnel and air traffic controllers are also considered.Howell stated that New Yorkers perp walk passengers out of airports in handcuffs. Georgia allows open carry. It's different everywhere.Continue the storyLocal law enforcement is responsible for bringing criminal charges. Charlotte Douglas International Airport police usually charge people with guns under a City Ordinance that makes possessing a firearm at checkpoints a Class 2 misdemeanor. This can lead to up to 60 days imprisonment, according to Brad Smith, a Charlotte attorney who defends those accused of bringing guns into the airport."Ive never defended anybody in Asheville, but if that is the position Asheville takes that is a 180-degree different approach than Charlotte-Mecklenburg," Smith said.Although Asheville has an airport, it is not under the control of the municipality like Charlotte.In 2012, the Republican-majority state legislature removed oversight from a board consisting of Buncombe County and city appointees. The General Assembly granted control to the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority. It makes its own rules. They state that "it shall be illegal for anyone, except those persons to which federal and/or State law permits, to transport or carry any firearm or weapon on airport property, except when such firearm/wound is properly encased for shipment."According to airport ordinances, breaking this law is a criminal misdemeanor. It was unclear why Cawthorn and the other eight persons were not charged. Kinsey didn't respond to questions regarding the rules on the afternoon of July 30,According to TSA regulations, guns can only be transported in unloaded special checked bags that have hard sides and cases. Howell stated that almost all people who are found with guns on them or in their checked bags claim they brought it by mistake.Micah Bock, Cawthorn's spokesperson, said that the congressman was at fault.Five months ago, Rep. Cawthorn mistakenly stowed a firearm inside his carry-on, which often doubles up as a range bag, instead of his checked bag. Bock stated July 30 that the firearm was unchambered and secured.Cawthorn said he tries to follow TSA guidelines and that he "quickly corrected this situation before boarding his plane."Cawthorn made it a central platform for people to be able to carry and own different types of guns. During the Jan. 6, Capitol insurrection, he claimed that he was armed. This could have been a violation of House rules.In early 2019, Asheville Regional Airport will probably have a TSA Precheck Line in place. Precheck allows travelers to undergo a prescreening process that expedites security screenings at airports.No matter what reason people may give, those found improperly transporting guns will face federal civil fines. Howell said that elected officials would not be exempt from this potential punishment.While he declined to comment on Cawthorn’s case, he said that the February 13 incident was "still in progress." Howell stated that the process can take several months.He said that the average fine for unloaded firearms is $2,000 and loaded firearms $4,000 respectively, but Smith stated that they could be as high as $30,000 in more serious cases.It is unclear if this was Cawthorn’s first offense. Bock didn't answer questions about whether Cawthorn had been caught with a gun at airport security checkpoints before.Cawthorn may lose his pre-check status. This is an expedited boarding process that is only available to people with special security clearance. Howell stated that anyone caught boarding with a firearm will have their pre-check status suspended or revoked.He said, "We cannot deem you a lower risk if you bring weapons in your carry-on to the checkpoint."2021_Firearm @ TSA_DPS Documents 2-13-21 Incident by Joel BurgessJoel Burgess is a journalist who has been living in WNC for over 20 years. He covers politics, government, and other news. His award-winning stories cover topics such as gerrymandering and police use of force.This article was originally published on Asheville Citizen Times. Madison Cawthorn attempted to board a plane with a gun; could be fine