Lynden museum to keep WWII gun display after pawn shop offers to do I-594 paperwork

The Lynden Pioneer Museum will not surrender its weapons after all.

A pawn shop in Bonney Lake has reached out to the museum, offering to complete the paperwork required under a new gun background-check law that goes into effect on Dec. 4.

Museum Director Troy Luginbill had said he would pull 11 historic guns from a World War II exhibit and return them to their owners, to avoid breaking the law created by Initiative 594. Most of the guns should be able to remain on display, Luginbill said.

The law was intended to close a loophole in the state’s background-check requirement by including firearms purchased at gun shows and online. I-594 passed with 59 percent of voters in favor, both statewide and in Whatcom County. However, in Lynden the initiative got just 38 percent of the vote.

The museum got caught up in the new law’s requirements — at least as Luginbill, the museum’s board and its attorney interpreted it. Background checks are required even of people who borrow a gun temporarily, with a few exceptions. Museums weren’t among those exceptions, and the state Attorney General’s Office has yet to offer an opinion on how to interpret I-594.

Rather than risk legal trouble, the museum board decided Luginbill would return the WWII-era guns by Dec. 3. Then he heard from Melissa Denny, a pawn dealer whose husband saw Luginbill’s story on the evening news.

“We’re just one of the little guys, helping another little guy,” Denny said in a phone interview from her shop, Pistol Annie’s Jewelry and Pawn. “I don’t want them to lose their firearms.”

Luginbill said on Friday, Nov. 21, he would drive the guns down to Bonney Lake sometime next week.

Luginbill will undergo a background check at the pawn shop, since he received the loaned weapons. After the exhibit ends in May, Luginbill said he will return to the pawn shop to complete background checks on the guns’ original owners, before returning the pieces.

“We’ll be in full compliance with the law,” he said.

If the owners, some of whom are older veterans, become incapacitated or fail the background check and can’t receive their guns, then Luginbill said he wouldn’t know what he could legally do with them.

“I understand why this wasn’t thought of. No one was thinking in terms of long-term loans of firearms,” Luginbill said.

Some of the gun owners already have told Luginbill they don’t want to be involved in the gun-transfer paperwork. He said he will return the weapons to those owners before I-594 goes into effect.

Luginbill is giving the owners until Monday, Nov. 24, to decide whether they want their guns to remain in the exhibit, called “Over the Beach: The WWII Pacific Theater.”

He said he expects six or seven of the 11 guns to remain on display.