Wisconsin Republican congressional candidate paid fine for bringing loaded gun to airport, report says

The Republican Derrick Van Orden’s campaign said the August incident was ‘purely accidental’

Johanna Chisholm
Monday 09 May 2022 17:50 BST
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Congressional candidate Derrick Van Orden, a Republican running to fill the Wisconsin seat held by US Rep Ron Kind of La Crosse, received two fines when he was caught with a gun in his carry-on luggage at an Iowa airport last August, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported.

Recent court documents unearthed by the Wisconsin newspaper showed that the Republican hopeful brought a loaded 9mm Sig Sauer handgun in his bag all the way to the security checkpoint of the Cedar Rapids airport in an incident that Mr Van Orden’s campaign said was a “mistake”.

“Derrick was travelling with his family and this situation was purely accidental. He fully cooperated and apologised to TSA for adding to the stress of their job, thanked them for the work they do keeping us safe, and it has been fully adjudicated,” the campaign statement provided to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel read.

The Independent reached out to Mr Van Orden for comment on the August incident.

The news of Mr Van Orden’s August brush with the Transportation Security Administration in Iowa last year arrives as embattled North Carolina congressman Madison Cawthorn was caught trying to transport a gun at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport late last month, marking the second time the Republican lawmaker has attempted to bring a firearm onto an airplane.

Mr Van Orden entered a guilty plea in December, according to court records obtained by the Sentinel and was ordered to pay a $360 (£292) fine along with being ordered to take a firearms safety course.

The congressional candidate, who has cited his experience as a decorated Navy SEAL veteran with deployments to combat zones throughout his campaign for public office, was separately fined by the TSA but his communications team did not specify the amount, the Sentinel reported.

The incident involving the ex-Navy SEAL occurred just weeks before Democratic Rep Kind announced that he would not be seeking re-election in 2022 for the south western Wisconsin district he has represented for more than 24 years, and that carried former President Donald Trump in 2020.

The Wisconsin lawmaker beat out Mr Van Orden in 2020 and remained one of just a few House Democrats who served in districts won by Trump.

In light of Mr Cawthorn’s recent TSA run-ins, gun control at airports has quickly become a topical issue taken up by Democratic leaders.

Representatives Bennie Thompson, who is chairman of the the House Homeland Security Committee, and Bonnie Watson Coleman, who is chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security, expressed in a letter to TSA Administrator David Pekoske the deep concerns held within their party about ensuring that “repeat offenders like Rep Cawthorn face[d] the full extent” of the agency’s enforcement actions.

“Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle agree that those who break the law and endanger the safety of other passengers—and especially repeat offenders such as Rep. Cawthorn—must be held to account,” they said.

The primary for Democratic candidates running in Wisconsin’s 3rd District, which includes small business owner Rebecca Cooke, US Navy veteran Brett Knudsen, ex-CIA officer Deb McGrath and state Sen Brad Pfaff of Onalaska, will be held on 9 August with the winner going on to face Mr Van Orden in November.

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