Right-Wing Media Falsely Claim That Museums Need To Give Up Their Guns

Conservative media outlets are misleadingly promoting the report that a Washington state museum will return some firearms on display to their owners following the passage of a new background check initiative, while ignoring statements from law enforcement that there is no legal reason to remove the guns.

On November 4, a majority of Washington voters passed Initiative 594, a proposal to require a background check on nearly all gun sales in the state, with some exceptions for temporary transfers and transfers between family members.

In response to the new law, which takes effect December 4, the Lynden Pioneer Museum released a statement claiming, “we have to return some unique WW2 era firearms to their owners on Dec 3rd” because “as of Dec 4th, we would be in violation of the law if we had loaned firearms that had not undergone the background check procedure.”

The museum is misreading I-594. The law is not retroactive, so the museum is not required to take any action when I-594 becomes law. Furthermore, the founder of the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum told the Associated Press that it was unlikely a museum returning a loaned firearm to its owner would require a background check either:

Seattle police officer James Ritter, who founded the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum, said he doubted that returning a gun to its rightful owner would be considered a “transfer” under the law. Regardless, he said it was exceptionally unlikely that investigators would target museum exhibits for prosecution.

Conservative media have promoted Lynden Pioneer Museum's false reading in order to attack Washington's new law.

On the November 20 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said, “A museum forced to return historic weapons all because of a new gun law. The Lynden Pioneer Museum in Washington state is giving back eleven World War II rifles to their owners because a new law requires background checks on all firearm transfers. Technically that's what it was, now they are going back.”

The Daily Caller's Chuck Ross also wrote that the Lynden Pioneer Musuem “will comply with the law” by returning the guns “rather than fight it.”

Townhall columnist Michael Schaus took the criticism further, writing that the World War II era rifles “will be stripped from the dangerous hands of a local museum” because of I-594, adding, “I'm sure the anti-gun nuts who helped pass Initiative 594 are just thrilled that impressionable young school kids will no-longer be able to see the weapon of a WWII soldier (That's not sarcasm... I really am pretty sure they are delighted).”

According to gun blogger Bob Owens, “As it turns out, schoolchildren and veterans are among the first to be hurt by the absurd law, as the law attacks our history as well.”

Image at top via Flickr user Joe Loong using a Creative Commons License.