Wilson bill allowing firearms transfers to museums becomes state law

Longview senator’s measure enables loans, gifts or sales of firearms to museums for display purposes – eliminates a hitch in state law


Photo credit: “Guns at Lakhota Museum,” Rangilo Gujarati, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

A bill from Sen. Jeff Wilson enabling firearms transfers to museums was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jay Inslee, clearing up a longstanding problem with state statutes that has prevented museums from accepting rifles and pistols for display and other purposes.

Senate Bill 5436 exempts museums and historical societies from criminal background check requirements when firearms are loaned, gifted or purchased.

The bill clears up a hitch in Washington’s firearms-transfer law, approved by voters by initiative in 2014. With few exceptions, transfers are supposed to go through dealers who perform criminal background checks. The problem is that only humans have criminal histories than can be checked.

“Believe it or not, this issue has stumped Washington for years,” Wilson said. “For purposes of criminal background checks, museums are not considered people. Because no background check can be done, museums haven’t been able to accept privately owned firearms as gifts, loans or purchases. This becomes a problem when a museum is trying to put together an exhibit about the Civil War, the Second World War or the taming of the West.

“Like it or not, guns are part of the story of these United States. You can’t tell it without them. I’m glad we can be grown-up about it. This year the Legislature passed a number of highly controversial bills designed to weaken Second Amendment rights, and I would not be surprised to see this legal battle go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But in this small area, Republicans were able to find common ground with Democrats. We might have different reasons, but I think all of us would agree that guns belong in museums.”

The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously.

Other Wilson bills that have been signed into law for 2023 are:

Senate Bill 5023 – enhancing tow-truck safety at highway accident scenes by permitting rear-facing blue flashers, completing a series of revisions to state law designed to promote awareness and caution by the motoring public. The bill was inspired by the deaths of two Longview-area tow-truck operators killed in separate accidents on I-5 in 2021, and was named the Arthur Anderson and Raymond Mitchell Tow Operators Safety Act in their honor. Signed by the governor April 6.

Senate Bill 5287 – encouraging wind turbine recycling, by launching a study by Washington State University of possible uses for wind-turbine blades when they are taken out of service. The enormous blades, made of composite materials, are difficult to recycle, and are generally cut and dumped in landfills when their useful lives are complete. Recycling of wind-turbine blades is a growing concern in environmental sustainability circles. Signed by the governor May 4.

Senate Bill 5542 – combatting vandalism of electric-vehicle charging equipment, by making charger components a matter of special scrutiny for scrap metal dealers and recyclers. Sellers must provide identification, purchasers must record information, and buyers must promptly notify law enforcement when they think they are being approached with stolen property. Similar rules exist for other types of valuable metal scrap, such as streetlights, wiring and guardrails. Wilson said the bill aims to prevent vandalism to charging stations and is a recognition of their importance as electric cars become a factor in the marketplace. Signed by the governor April 20.

Photo credit: “Guns at Lakhota Museum,” Rangilo Gujarati, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0