Museum removing historic rifles, citing concern over state's new background check law

LYNDEN, Wash. -- Throughout the World War II exhibit at the Lynden Pioneer Museum are weapons of war. Guns and rifles, the tools of the soldiers who often sacrificed their lives for their country.

Museum Director Troy Luginbill showed off an M-1 carbine rifle, and said, "A lot of guys would grab this because it was a lot easier to carry when you had to hike 10 miles in a day."

While the exhibit  doesn’t end until May, many of the firearms on display will be gone by the start of December.

"In this situation, we can’t risk potential closure of the museum just so that we can make a political statement," said Luginbill.

The museum’s board believes it is now violating the new state law requiring background checks on gun sales or transfers. Most of the weapons at the museum are on loan.

Luginbill said the museum can't afford all of those background checks and when the law takes effect Dec. 4, the plan is to take remove those guns from the display.

"I asked our lawyer what the worst case scenario was," said Luginbill. "He said if we're found in violation of the law and it goes to trial, we could lose our nonprofit status, and the museum is shut down."

The Attorney General's Office tells us it has not been asked for a formal opinion on the law and can’t speculate on different scenarios.

But according to Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, the group behind the new law, the museum has no need to worry.

"It’s not about museums, it’s about closing pathways criminals use to get a hold of guns,” said Geoff Potter, the group's spokesman. "The museum should continue with it’s exhibit.”

But the Lynden museum is taking no chances, and will return these World War II guns.

Luginbill calls it a loss for the museum, history buffs, and the community.

"A replica just doesn’t have the same impact as real history has. And so museums are constantly wrestling with that. Do you want to see the actual Mona Lisa or do you just want to see a copy of the Mona Lisa?"