Officials aren’t sure whether Oklahoma taxpayers will have to pay for uninsured weapons that are missing from a famous state gun museum.
The J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum is covered by insurance but the gun collection is not.
“I was shocked when one of my auditors told me that,” State Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan said.
The collection was supposed to have an inventory of more than 20,000 guns and as many as 6,000 might be missing, McMahan said. However, the initial inventory was about 14,000 and a much smaller number is missing.
Auditors will have a better idea of how many weapons are gone when their investigation is complete, he said. Some have been stolen because police departments in other cities have found several with serial numbers that trace to the museum.
The multimillion-dollar collection contains rare items like a 500-year-old Chinese hand-cannon and the world’s smallest automatic pistol, the Kolibri, according to the museum’s Web site.
The museum also houses the “Gallery of Outlaw Guns,” which includes Jesse James’ .45-caliber Smith & Wesson, Emmett Dalton’s .45-caliber Colt, Pretty Boy Floyd’s .41-caliber Colt.
The collection was acquired by Claremore hotel owner John Monroe Davis, who transferred ownership to a trust called the J.M. Davis Foundation Inc., in 1965. The foundation entered into a $1 long-term lease with the state that requires the state to house, preserve and display the collection with no admission charge.
Larry Rahmeier, secretary-treasurer of the foundation, said the initial agreement required the state to insure the collection, but the foundation later waived that requirement.
“I believe there were some discussions about the great difficulty in putting a value on the collection and in getting insurance. I think the cost was prohibitive to all concerned,” Rahmeier said.
Rahmeier said he doesn’t know if the foundation will seek compensation for any weapons that have disappeared while in the state’s care.
Gene Lidyard, administrator of the state’s Risk Management Division, said if foundation representatives think the state has been negligent, it could file a tort claim.
The state’s liability is limited to $25,000 per act, so if several guns were stolen at once the potential liability limit would be $25,000, he said.
If the guns were taken in a series of thefts or embezzlements over time, that could be a more complicated legal issue, Lidyard said.
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