Earlier this month, Washington State passed a universal background check ballot initiative known as I-594. Now, the unintended consequences of the “feel-good” bill are beginning to rear their ugly heads.
Case in point, the Lynden Pioneer Museum has opted to remove several World War II-era firearms from an exhibit and return them to their owners because curators are worried that they may be in violation of the new law.
The exhibit is called “Over the Beach: The WWII Pacific Theater,” and showcases, among other military equipment, an anti-tank rifle, a Johnson M1941 and a Japanese infantry rifle.
Last week Thursday, the museum made the announcement on its Facebook page that it would be returning the historic guns.
“The museum will be returning these guns to their owners because as of Dec. 4, we would be in violation of the law if we had loaned firearms that had not undergone the background check procedure,” read the post.
“Hopefully the state will find a way with initiative 594 to allow museums the option of having guns loaned for display without the heavy financial burden that will go with the transfer process outlined in initiative 594,” the statement continued.
Troy Luginbill, the museum’s director, spoke with The Bellingham Herald about the dilemma.
“We have elected to comply with the law as we understand it,” explained Luginbill. “The ideal situation would be if someone comes along from the state and says, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ If that happens before May 1, we can put the guns back on display.”
I-594 has some exceptions, such as gifts between immediate family members, antiques and relics, temporary transfers for self-defense, and loans for lawful hunting or sporting activities. However, due to the age of the rifles, they don’t qualify as antiques or relics. Typically antique firearms are classified as firearms manufactured prior to 1898.
“I read through the law about 10 different times looking for a loophole,” Luginbill said in an interview.
Meanwhile, State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said no state official or county prosecutor has challenged the law or requested an opinion, so his office has not issued one.
“To date, there have not been any lawsuits filed against I-594, nor has our office received any opinion requests,” he told The Bellingham Herald.
“At this point we have no interpretations of the initiative to offer to the public beyond the text of the measure itself,” he added.