Cawthorn cited for bringing loaded gun to Charlotte airport, police say

U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina faces a crowded field of seven Republican primary opponents in his reelection bid.

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Bryan Anderson, WRAL state government reporter,
Mark Boyle, WRAL anchor/reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina was cited on Tuesday morning for bringing a loaded gun to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

The department said in a statement that law enforcement officers assigned to the airport were told by the Transportation Security Administration that a firearm had been located in a bag. Responding officers then identified Cawthorn as the bag's owner and issued him a misdemeanor citation. Cawthorn wasn't arrested.

"Mr. Cawthorn stated that the firearm was his and he was cooperative with the CMPD officers," the department said in a statement posted on Twitter. "Mr. Cawthorn was issued a citation for Possession of a Dangerous Weapon on City Property, which is a City of Charlotte Ordinance. Mr. Cawthorn was released, and the CMPD took possession of the firearm, which is normal procedure."

It’s not the first time the congressman has brought a firearm to an airport. In February 2021, he attempted to bring a gun through security at the Asheville Regional Airport.

The news of Tuesday's citation was first reported by WSOC. Cawthorn’s spokesman, Luke Ball, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Charlotte airport officials deferred to CMPD, which said it was "standard procedure" not to make an arrest.

"It is standard procedure for the CMPD Airport Division to cite in lieu of arrest for the misdemeanor charge of Possession of a Dangerous Weapon on City Property unless there are other associated felony charges or extenuating circumstances," CMPD wrote.

Mark Howell, a spokesperson for the TSA, did not name Cawthorn but confirmed that the agency tasked with ensuring traveler safety detected a loaded Staccato 9mm handgun at Checkpoint D at the Charlotte airport at around 9 a.m. Tuesday. He deferred to local police officials for further questions.

Mark Howell, a spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration, did not name Cawthorn but confirmed that the agency tasked with ensuring traveler safety detected a loaded Staccato 9mmm handgun at Checkpoint D at the Charlotte airport at around 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Cawthorn is running for reelection in the state’s westernmost district, where he faces seven Republican primary challengers.
The congressman in recent months has faced a string of self-inflicted personal and political wounds ranging from driving violations to highly questionable comments about older GOP colleagues he says invited him to an orgy.
Cawthorn has also drawn criticism for calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “thug,” comments WRAL News first reported.
The 26-year-old congressman is running with the support of former President Donald Trump, who reaffirmed his support for Cawthorn at an April 9 rally in Johnston County. He is opposed, however, by several prominent North Carolina Republican lawmakers.

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, state Senate leader Phil Berger and state House Speaker Tim Moore all endorse Cawthorn’s top primary challenger, state Sen. Chuck Edwards. Local Republican official Michele Woodhouse is challenging Cawthorn from the further right flank of the party.

"It is shocking to me that someone who just received an endorsement from the NRA could be such a careless gun owner because it isn't the first time that he's done it," Woodhouse said, citing Cawthorn's recent backing from the National Rifle Association.

The gun rights group didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Cawthorn's misdemeanor charge. Its website says "firearm education and safety is paramount."

A group aligned with Tillis has taken to the airwaves to attack Cawthorn.

Meanwhile, an anti-Cawthorn political action committee has also gotten involved in the race by urging Democrats to switch their party affiliation just for the May 17 primary election. The Fire Madison Cawthorn super PAC is backing Navy veteran Wendy Marie-Limbaugh Nevarez for the GOP nomination.

The other Republicans in the race are financial adviser Matthew Burril, Army veteran Rod Honeycutt, businessman and former Cawthorn supporter Bruce O’Connell and Weaverville resident Kristie Sluder.

If no candidate gets more than 30% of the vote in the May 17 primary, the two highest votegetters would square off in a July 26 runoff election.

Jeff Moore, a spokesman for the North Carolina Republican Party, declined to comment on the latest report of Cawthorn bringing a gun to an airport.