Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) was stopped by airport security back in February after trying to board a plane with an unloaded gun and a loaded magazine in his carry-on bag.
The incident was first publicized by FireMadison.com, a group dedicated to getting the right-wing congressman out of office. FireMadison.com obtained and published an audio recording of officials at Asheville Regional Airport discussing the confiscation of the Glock 9 mm handgun.
Cawthorn has released a statement saying it was just a mistake, and that he often uses his carry-on bag, while not flying, to carry guns and ammo.
“Five months ago, while boarding a flight, Rep. Cawthorn erroneously stowed a firearm in his carry-on (that often doubles as a range bag) instead of his checked bag,” spokesman Micah Bock said in a statement to the Raleigh News & Observer. “The firearm was secured, and unchambered. Rep. Cawthorn endeavors to always follow TSA guidelines, and quickly rectified this situation before boarding his flight.”
Cawthorn will likely have to pay a federal fine, Transportation Security Administration spokesman Mark Howell told the Asheville Citizen-Times. For first offenses, fines are usually $2,000 for an unloaded gun and $4,000 for a loaded one.
Howell also told the news outlet that if Cawthorn has TSA PreCheck status ― which lets qualified passengers bypass some security requirements ― he’ll probably lose that.
“We can’t deem you a low risk any more if you are bringing weapons in your carry-on bag to the checkpoint,” Howell said.
He also added that criminal penalties related to guns in airports vary with state and local laws. According to the Citizen-Times, it’s a criminal misdemeanor to bring an unauthorized firearm into the Asheville Regional Airport. However, none of the eight people who have been stopped with guns in the airport this year have been charged, including Cawthorn.