North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn was cited by the Charlotte Mecklenberg police on Tuesday afternoon after TSA security agents found a gun in his carry-on bag as it was going through security. As the Washington Post eagerly reminds us, it’s the second time the congressman’s been cited in the past few years.
I don’t know who the hell is packing Cawthorn’s bags, but you would have thought they would have been extra cautious after the first citation.
Whatever the reason, there’s really no excuse for this to happen a second time. I’m personally so paranoid about accidentally bringing a round or two of ammunition in my carry-on that I don’t keep my range bag anywhere near where I store my luggage, but the TSA is finding more guns now than ever before, so Cawthorn isn’t alone in making this entirely avoidable mistake.
Nationwide, TSA officers detected 5,972 firearms at airport security checkpoints in 2021. It was a significant increase from the 3,257 detected last year and a spike from the 4,432 detected in 2019 (pre pandemic). The rate of guns caught at checkpoints nationwide came to of 10.2 firearms per million passengers in 2021. Of the guns caught in 2021, approximately 86 percent were loaded. Firearms were caught at 268 airport checkpoints nationwide.
Now, the vast majority of people who are caught with guns in their carry-on (including Cawthorn) have no malicious intent, but forgetfulness in this case is a crime, even if it’s a minor one. The easiest way to avoid any embarrassing incidents like this is to simply keep your carry-on separate from your guns and ammo at all time, but if for whatever reason that’s not an option just take a couple of minutes to look through your bag before you stuff your travel pillow and a change of clothes in there.
For Cawthorn, this is also a bit more than just a personal unforced error and paying a fine. The congressman also has a court date next month for driving on a suspended license, and his new citation will be campaign fodder in the coming weeks, as well as in the general election if his campaign survives past May 17th. He’s facing a primary challenge from North Carolina state Senator Chuck Edwards (no relation), and there’ve been an increasing number of Republicans publicly criticizing Cawthorn; U.S. Senator Thom Tillis among them, who declared that the incumbent “has fallen well short of the most basic standards Western North Carolina expects from their representatives,” in his endorsement of Edwards in late March.
Tillis’ move came the same week that many Republicans – including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy – criticized Cawthorn for claiming that lawmakers in Washington often use cocaine and hold orgies.
McCarthy said Cawthorn told him he “exaggerated” his remarks. He also said the freshman House member must change his ways because “he’s got a lot of members very upset.”
In a tweet just hours before Tillis’ announcement, Cawthorn said “the radical left, the establishment, and the media want to take me down,” but he will move forward.
“Their attacks have been relentless,” said Cawthorn, who at age 26 is the youngest member of Congress. “I won’t stop fighting. I won’t bow to the mob. They want to silence the America First movement. I’m not going anywhere.”
North Carolina 2A stalwarts Grassroots NC has also endorsed Edwards over Cawthorn in the primary, with a representative for the organization saying in a statement that “Cawthorn has made a series of gaffes, including being reprimanded by Republican leadership, which damage his legislative effectiveness. Combined with dropping the NDAA vote in his first term in office (he says he voted for it knowing the red flag language would be stripped in the Senate), gun voters in the district should consider replacing him.” The NRA, meanwhile, is sticking with their pro-incumbent policy and endorsing Cawthorn.
You know, it’s easy for a politician to say they’re pro-gun. Heck, if you’re a Republican it’s even easy to vote for pro-Second Amendment bills. And unlike some politicians, I don’t think anyone can say that Cawthorn brought his gun through airport security as an act of performative political theater. My guess is that Cawthorn simply forgot the gun was there. An honest mistake, at least the first time. The second time around, though, seems a little irresponsible to me.Is it an automatic disqualification for re-election? No, but it is another embarrassment, however slight, and Cawthorn’s had more than his fair share of those recently.