Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s second airport gun incident prompts letter to TSA

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After a second incident in which Rep. Madison Cawthorn (RN.C.) ran afoul of rules that prohibit passengers from carrying firearms at airport security checkpoints, Democratic leaders on congressional panels that oversee the Transportation Security Administration are seeking answers about the agency’s handling of such incidents and urging stiffer penalties for repeat offenders.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn cited for loaded gun in bag at airport checkpoint

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (DN.J.), chairwoman of the Homeland Security subcommittee on transportation and maritime security, wrote in a letter Thursday to TSA Administrator David P. Pekoske that they are alarmed by a rise in the number of firearms that TSA officers are detecting.

They said the incident on Tuesday involving Cawthorn – the second time the lawmaker has been cited – should prompt the agency to “act decisively to ensure repeat offenders… face the full extent of TSA’s enforcement actions.”

Cawthorn was stopped as he was passing through security at Charlotte Douglas International Airport after a TSA officer detected a gun in the lawmaker’s carry-on bag. He was cited for possession of a dangerous weapon on city property, then released, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. His gun was confiscated as per standard procedure, officials said.

A police report indicated officers recovered a Staccato C2, a firearm magazine and 9mm rounds of ammunition. The gun was loaded, according to two people with knowledge of the incident who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record. It was the second time the lawmaker had violated rules that prohibit traveling with firearms in carry-on bags, the first occurring in February 2021.

In their letter Thursday, Thompson and Watson Coleman note that nearly 6,000 firearms were detected at airport checkpoints last year, the most in TSA history. Of those, 86 percent of guns were loaded. The committee held a hearing on the issue in February, while there is legislation in Congress aimed at reducing the number of incidents.

“The bipartisan support in the hearing and for the legislation indicates that Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle agree that those who break the law and endanger the safety of other passengers – and especially repeat offenders such as Rep. Cawthorn – must be held to account, ”the lawmakers wrote.

They also asked Pekoske for more details on the agency’s efforts to reduce the number of firearms being brought to airports. The letter also seeks information regarding the TSA’s handling of the previous incident involving Cawthorn.

Cawthorn’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the latest incident. On Thursday, he posted a message on Instagram after passing through a TSA checkpoint at Reagan National Airport outside Washington.

“Just went through TSA. No major alarms, nothing bad happened. So to all the law enforcement out there, especially you guys at Charlotte, I love you all. Appreciate you guys. You all keep us safe. Seriously, thanks. Fly safe, make sure you do not have a gun in your bag. ”

TSA rules prohibit passengers from carrying firearms unless they are secured in a hard and locked case and placed in checked baggage. Passengers must also inform the airline that they are traveling with a firearm.

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