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Rep. Madison Cawthorn is caught again with a gun at a North Carolina airport

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

North Carolina Congressman Madison Cawthorn was stopped at the airport in Charlotte yesterday after authorities found a loaded handgun in his bag. Cawthorn was issued a citation for possession of a dangerous weapon on city property and then released. It's not the first time Cawthorn has been stopped by the TSA for bringing a gun to the airport. The freshman Republican has also been involved in several other public safety violations since taking office. Jeanne Davis of member station WFAE in Charlotte is following the story, and I talked to her earlier this morning.

Just tell us what went down.

JEANNE DAVIS, BYLINE: Yeah, so he was going through security at the Charlotte airport on Tuesday - you know, dropped his bag onto the X-ray conveyor belt. And, you know, that's when a TSA officer spied a loaded 9 mm handgun. And so typically, when this happens, you know, a TSA agent will summon a police officer at the, you know, security checkpoint to inspect the bag. And in this case, the officer found the gun. And Representative Cawthorn was - he was given a citation, like you said, but was not arrested, though police did confiscate the gun. And he was allowed to continue on his way.

Yeah, in a news release, the police department said anyone who brings a weapon to the airport is just cited for a misdemeanor rather than being arrested. And that's unless, you know, there's outstanding warrants or other extenuating circumstances. And so far, we haven't heard from the congressman directly about what happened, and his spokesman has not replied with a comment.

MARTIN: Huh. I mean, yeah, we know - I mean, I guess I'm struggling with the fact that we all know the rules, right? I mean...

DAVIS: (Laughter).

MARTIN: ...I can't even take peanut butter through the TSA screening machines, let alone a weapon. This is not the first time Cawthorn has tried to take a gun through airport security, and there have been other incidents involving public safety. Can you tell us about those?

DAVIS: Yeah. So in Asheville last year, at the airport there in western North Carolina, where his district is - we don't know if it's the same gun in this case. But, you know, unlike in Charlotte, he wasn't cited, and it's not really clear why. Also, last fall, he brought knives to two different school board meetings - a North Carolina college and a private K-12 school - all in the span of under a month. And since he's, you know, taken office last year, he's gotten three speeding tickets.

MARTIN: I mean, maybe speeding tickets aside, but these other instances of bringing weapons - I mean, is he trying to make a point? I mean, how much of this is political? He is - he's got a primary next month, right?

DAVIS: Yeah. North Carolina's 11th District - that's the one he represents. They have a primary in three weeks. And, you know, this is a rural district. There's not a lot of polling, so it's hard to tell how this has impacted it. And - but it's been one event after another producing these sort of, like, negative headlines. He is running against seven other people in the GOP primary. He's, you know, an outspoken supporter of President Trump and has been endorsed by him for reelection. The goal for his opponents, though, will be to keep him under that 30%, to put him in a runoff and beat him later this summer.

You know, Republican U.S. Senator Thom Tillis is backing one of his competitors in this race. But I will say, Congressman Cawthorn has done something, you know, few Republican House members are able to do, and that's get name recognition and a lot of media attention, though not always for the best reasons.

MARTIN: Jeanne Davis, reporter with member station WFAE in Charlotte, thanks. We appreciate your reporting on this.

DAVIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeanne Davis