Democratic leaders of the House Homeland Security Committee are demanding answers after Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) was caught carrying a loaded gun at an airport security checkpoint earlier this week for the second time.
Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), who chairs the Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security, wrote a letter to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske on Thursday with an information request concerning “the dangerous, persistent trend our country faces of individuals bringing guns to airport checkpoints.”
The letter pointed to Cawthorn receiving a citation from law enforcement on Tuesday for bringing a firearm to Charlotte Douglas International Airport in a carry-on bag, and the fact that the TSA had previously caught the GOP lawmaker carrying a gun at Asheville Regional Airport in February last year.
“Two incidents in such a short period of time should raise our collective alarm regarding repeat offenses involving a firearm,” Thompson and Watson Coleman wrote. “Accordingly, we urge the [TSA] to act decisively to ensure repeat offenders like Rep. Cawthorn face the full extent of TSA’s enforcement actions.”
The Democrats pressed the TSA on what action, if any, it took or plans to take against Cawthorn after the incident, saying that the agency “must pursue appropriate action without fear or favor against all such offenders, regardless of whether they are public figures such as Rep. Cawthorn.”
The letter asked the TSA to answer questions about whether the North Carolina Republican faces any fines or civil penalties, and whether there were “any discrepancies, substantively or procedurally” in the agency’s response to the Cawthorn incident in comparison to “factually similar incidents” involving other passengers.
The TSA declined to comment on TPM’s inquiries about the issue, citing privacy concerns.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) announced via Twitter several hours after the incident on Tuesday that Cawthorn had been cited for “Possession of a Dangerous Weapon on City Property” and was released after turning over the gun to the officers.
The CMPD, apparently aware that the seemingly light response would raise some eyebrows, insisted several times in its announcement that Cawthorn didn’t get special treatment: The GOP lawmaker’s release was “normal procedure”, and a citation in lieu of an arrest was “standard procedure.”
Thompson and Coleman’s inquiry came a day after House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) similarly sounded the alarm over Cawthorn in a letter to the House Sergeant-at-Arms urging the official to explore whether Capitol grounds ought to be made “a fully gun-free zone” outside of law enforcement.
“In light of the disturbing news that a Member was detained by police for a second time yesterday at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, after again trying to bring a loaded firearm onto a commercial flight, it is essential that we have a clear and unambiguous policy in place regarding gun safety in the Capitol Complex and grounds,” Hoyer wrote.