Madison Cawthorn, former WNC congressman and gun advocate, pleads guilty to firearms charge

CHARLOTTE – Former Congressman Madison Cawthorn has pleaded guilty to trying to bring a loaded gun through security at a major U.S. airport.

Cawthorn, a Henderson County Republican, entered the plea on May 5 in Mecklenburg County District Court. He was fined $250 and does not have to forfeit the gun.

The right-wing ex-representative for Western North Carolina appeared on a misdemeanor charge of possession of a dangerous weapon on city property. The Class 3 misdemeanor can carry up to 20 days in jail, depending on prior convictions.

That court date comes four months after the end of Cawthorn’s term. Plagued by scandal, Cawthorn lost the Republican 11th U.S. House District primary to state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who went on to win the general election.

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Cawthorn was found with the loaded weapon, a 9 mm handgun, as he was trying to board a plane on April 26 at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, police said. An outspoken gun-rights advocate, he frequently posts pictures and videos on social media of him shooting various firearms.

His court date came after two recent mass shootings in the U.S. − five people, including a 9-year-old boy killed on April 28 in Cleveland, Texas, by an AR-15 toting man asked by neighbors to stop shooting in his yard so their infant could sleep and one person killed and three wounded May 3 after being shot by a man with a pistol in an Atlanta medical facility.

At the time, Cawthorn admitted to having the gun. He posted on Instagram “I made a mistake” and there was “no excuse.” He encouraged others to take an extra minute to check to make sure they did not make the same mistake.

It was the second time he was found with a weapon while trying to board a plane. In 2021 he was stopped while boarding at Asheville Regional Airport with an unloaded gun. Airport police did not charge him. There were at least eight others found with guns boarding planes at Asheville’s airport that year. None were charged, according to airport authorities.

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While the Asheville airport has its own police force, the Charlotte airport is owned by the city and overseen by municipal law enforcement.

Transportation Security Administration rules say guns can be transported on planes unloaded in special cases or checked bags with hard sides. Cawthorn may have also faced TSA fines for the Asheville and Charlotte incidents and lost expedited boarding status, according to experts on TSA rules.

Cawthorn, a gun rights advocate, has run afoul of other weapons prohibitions, bringing knives to educational facilities. Following a 2021 Henderson County School Board meeting, he was warned by Sheriff Lowell Griffin about what those present said was a fixed-blade dagger under his wheelchair that the congressman uses following a 2014 car accident.

His primary loss was followed by a list of problems and scandals that included speeding tickets and misdemeanor citation for driving with a revoked license, his reference to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a thug and his claim that he was invited by Republican officials to an orgy and where cocaine was used.

This story will be updated.

Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He’s written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Got a tip? Contact Burgess at [email protected], 828-713-1095 or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.

Kara Fohner is a news reporter for the Gaston Gazette, part of the USA TODAY Network. Email her at [email protected].

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Gun advocate Madison Cawthorn pleads guilty to firearms charge

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