By Victoria Cavaliere
SEATTLE (Reuters) - A museum in Washington state plans to remove about a dozen borrowed firearms from a World War Two exhibit and return them to their owners to comply with a new gun law that requires background checks for all gun transfers, the institution said on Wednesday.
Washington voters passed legislation earlier this month expanding background checks on all firearms purchases to include sales at guns shows and online, as well for loans and transfers.
The Lynden Pioneer Museum, located about 100 miles north of Seattle and just south of the Canadian border, said that as a result it was pulling all 11 of the World War Two-era guns in its exhibit, "Over the Beach: The WWII Pacific Theater," before the law takes effect.
"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," the museum said in a statement.
The exhibit includes vintage weapons and military equipment used during the war, as well as letters, photographs and other memorabilia and artifacts collected from veterans, said Troy Luginbill, the museum's director.
The weapons being returned to their owners include a rare Japanese flare pistol and an anti-tank rifle used in the war, he said.
"The board decided 11 firearms are not worth the chance of getting the museum shut down," Luginbill said. "We aren't trying to make a political statement."
Though the law has limited provisions for antiques and family members, the guns used in the display, on loan from individual collectors, do not qualify for either exemption, he said.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office said in a statement that there have not been any lawsuits filed against the background check legislation, I-594, nor were there any opinion requests for guidance in the matter.
"Therefore, at this point we have no interpretations of the initiative to offer to the public beyond the text of the measure itself," a spokeswoman for Ferguson said.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)