Former North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn pleaded guilty Friday to bringing a loaded handgun through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport last year, according to his attorney.
Cawthorn, whose trial was set to start Friday, entered a guilty plea for the third-degree misdemeanor charge of possession of a dangerous weapon on city property, according to his attorney Missy Owen.
The former Republican congressman was fined $250, without probation, and his firearm will be returned, his attorney said.
“Mr. Cawthorn accepted responsibility for this mistake. Law enforcement noted his cooperative attitude at every step. He chose to resolve this case in a manner that would ensure his uninterrupted right to possess a firearm. He remains staunchly committed to responsible gun ownership,” Owen added.
The incident in April 2022 was the second time in just over a year that airport authorities had stopped Cawthorn with a gun. In February 2021, agents at the Asheville Regional Airport found an unloaded gun and a loaded magazine in Cawthorn’s carry-on bag, according to reporting from the Asheville Citizen-Times. Cawthorn’s weapon was “secured at the airport and he retrieved it after his flight,” the newspaper reported, citing the airport spokesperson. In July 2021, when the story was published, a Cawthorn spokesperson told the Citizen-Times that the congressman had brought the gun “by mistake.” He was not charged in the incident.
Cawthorn was first elected to Congress in 2020 as a strong ally of President Donald Trump. But the firebrand lawmaker angered and annoyed a wide swath of his Republican colleagues with a steady stream of controversial antics and remarks. He claimed on a podcast that he had been invited to an orgy in Washington and had personally seen leaders in the efforts to curb drug addiction doing cocaine.
Cawthorn ultimately came up short in his bid for a second term. Despite having Trump’s endorsement, he lost in the Republican primary to Chuck Edwards, who had the backing of several top North Carolina Republicans. Edwards easily went on to win the general election for the western North Carolina seat.
This story has been updated with additional details.