GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Last April, when former Rep. Madison Cawthorn of Hendersonville was found to be carrying a loaded gun at a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, he was one of several passengers caught each week while trying to board flights and carrying prohibited firearms.

Former Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) twice was stopped for carrying a weapon while trying to board a plane. Once in Asheville and once in Charlotte. He wasn’t the only person stopped. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The TSA reported earlier this year that there were 117 incidents of weapons being seized at CLT in 2022, which was up about 10% from 2022 but some 54% more than five years earlier.

TSA officials seized about 250 weapons at the 10 airports in North Carolina, which represented only a small percentage of the 6,542 – about 18 per day – they found at all airports in 2022.

“What we see in our checkpoints really reflects what we’re seeing in society, and in society there are more people carrying firearms nowadays,” TSA administrator David Pekoske told The Associated Press.

Only about one weapon per month (15 in all for 2022) was confiscated at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, which also was surpassed by Raleigh-Durham (74) and Asheville (25) for the year. TSA says those are record counts for both Charlotte and Asheville.

At PTI the 15 were 25% more than in 2021 (12) but fewer than in the pre-pandemic peak of 2019 (18), the TSA reported. Raleigh’s total was down by about 25% from 100 in 2021, and Asheville’s increased by 67% from the 15 of 2021.

Cawthorn’s problem in Charlotte was his second such incident. His first was in February 2021 in Asheville, but that time the weapon was unloaded.

In Charlotte he was cited for possession of a dangerous weapon on city property. A police report listed the weapon as a Staccato C2, which was confiscated with a firearms magazine and 9mm rounds of ammunition. The Washington Post reported that the gun was loaded.

Transportation Security Administration agents process passengers at the south security checkpoint at Denver International Airport. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

The AP reported that the top cities for gun confiscations in 2022 were at traditional tourism destinations and the nation’s busiest airports, although not its most-populous cities.

Atlanta, the busiest airport, had the most confiscations (448), followed by Dallas-Fort Worth (385), Houston Bush (298), Nashville (213), Phoenix (196), Orlando (162), Denver (156), Austin (150), Fort Lauderdale (134) and Tampa (131).

TSA reports that it screened approximately 761 million passengers and flight crew members nationally, which was 30% more than in 2021. In North Carolina there were about 19.79 million screenings, which was up by 27%.

But the rate of detection in North Carolina was much more frequent than nationally, TSA said. There was a weapon found for every 79,157 passengers screened in the state, which was about 47% more than the national rate of 1 per 116,394).

A congressional hearing in 2022 was told that about 86% of the weapons found at TSA checks were loaded.

Violators may be punished in a variety of ways based on federal and state law. Some, such as Cawthorn, are given citations, and the weapons are confiscated. He was handled by Charlotte- Mecklenburg Police. There could be civil penalties imposed by the TSA, which last year increased its maximum to $14,950.

Stephanie Freeman, a spokesperson for PTI, said that there had been no problematic instances at check-ins in Greensboro and that the police had not had to be summoned on any occasion.

Firearms can be transported on commercial flights if they are “unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and placed in checked baggage,” the TSA stipulates. During a visit to the check-in counter, a passenger must declare the weapon and any parts – think scope or extra magazines – to the agent.

But here’s one more caution: Don’t transport a “replica” firearm – even a realistic toy – in a carry-on bag either. That will get you in trouble, too.

The breakdown at NC airports