ACHEVILLE — His handgun was hijacked by airport police, US Representative Madison Cawthorne, local and federal officials said, and he is likely to confront a federal fine and forfeiture of private security status.
The Republican congressman representing District 11 in western North Carolina was trying to board a plane on Feb. 4. On September 13, Transportation Security Administration workers found an unload handgun in his bag, along with a loaded magazine, according to Asheville Regional Airport officials.
The weapon is described in a revised incident report and police radio traffic recordings as a “9mm Glock pistol.”
Cawthorne, whose spokesman responded to questions July 30 saying he had brought the gun by mistake, has not been charged with any crime, according to reports and other information about the incident obtained this month through a request for public records. This is a natural outcome, spokeswoman Tina Kinsey said.
“In 2021 so far, eight firearms have been reported at the checkpoint, and in each case no criminal charges have been brought,” Kinsey said, adding that passengers were secured with firearms and allowed to travel without theirs.
Kinsey said Cawthorne’s pistol was secured at the airport and recovered following his flight.
In the recordings, an officer can be heard repeating several times to another officer that an elected official was found in possession of a handgun.
“Official-elect Madison Cawthorne is carrying a firearm,” he said.
Then, the police discussed what to do with the gun, and at one point said they might have asked Cawthorne to take it to his car. Later they say because his flight is in seven minutes, they will secure it.
TSA spokesman Mark Howell said criminal rules regarding firearms at airports vary widely across the country according to local and state laws.
“In New York, they took you out of the airport in handcuffs,” Howell said. “In Georgia, you can begin a tote anywhere. It’s distinct everywhere.”
Bringing criminal charges is up to local law enforcement. At Charlotte Douglas International Airport, city police usually charge people with guns under city law that makes possession of a firearm at a checkpoint a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in prison, said Charlotte attorney Brad Smith, who advocates for people Accused of bringing weapons to the airport.
“I haven’t advocated for anyone in Asheville, but if that’s the position Asheville takes, it’s a 180-degree distinct approach than Charlotte Mecklenburg,” Smith said.
While Asheville Airport is located in the city, the municipal government is not in control as is the case with Charlotte.
The Republican-majority state legislature stripped an assembly of appointed city and county Buncombes of oversight in 2012. The assembly gave control of the unused Asheville Regional Airport Authority, making it own the rules. They say “it is illegal for anyone, except such persons to the extent permitted by federal and/or state law, to carry or transport any firearm or weapon on airport property except when such firearm or weapon is properly packaged for shipment.” “
Violation of this law is considered a criminal misdemeanour, according to airport regulations. It was not clear why the eight people, including Cawthorne, had not been charged. On the afternoon of July 30, Kinsey did not respond to questions about the rules.
TSA rules state that guns can be transported and unloaded in exceptional checked sidewalls and firm bags. In nearly every incident, Howell said, people found carrying guns or in checked bags say they brought the gun by mistake.
This happened with the congressman, said Micah Bok, a spokesman for Cawthorne.
“Five months ago, as you boarded a plane, Rep. Cawthorne mistakenly stowed a firearm in his bag (often used as a scope bag) instead of his checked bag. The firearm is secured and unrestricted,” Buck said July 30.
He said Cawthorne forever tries to succeed TSA guidelines, and “quickly correct this situation prior boarding his flight.”
Cawthorn has made the right to own and carry various types of rifles a central platform. during January. 6 The Capitol Rebellion said he was armed, a potential violation of House rules.
Regardless of the reasons people donate, those found to be improperly transporting weapons confront in almost all cases federal civil fines, Hoyle said, noting that an elected official would not be disqualified from potential punishment.
He declined to comment on the Cawthorne case but said the events of February. 13 incidents “still pending”. Howell said the process could take months.
He said fines are typically $2,000 for unloading a firearm and $4,000 for a loaded firearm for the first incident, though Smith said they can be as lofty as $30,000 in more egregious cases.
It is not clear if this is Cawthorn’s first violation. In his response to Citizen Times Bock he did not respond to questions including whether the congressman had ever been found with a handgun at an airport checkpoint.
If the Cawthorn has pre-screening status, an express boarding procedure given to those with Special Security Clearance, he will likely also lose that. Howell said that anyone who finds boarding with a rifle usually has that mode suspended or revoked.
“We can’t consider you a low risk anymore if you’re bringing weapons in your carry-on to the checkpoint,” he said.
Joel Burgess has lived at WNC for over 20 years, covering political, government and other news. He wrote award-winning stories on topics ranging from electoral manipulation to police use of force.