The St. Louis Police Department has decided to sell 27 of its historic and valuable Thompson submachine guns in an effort to raise the funds necessary to purchase new duty firearms for its officers, according to a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
More commonly known as “Tommy guns,” Thompson submachine guns were chambered in 45 ACP and used by both gangsters and law enforcement in the early twentieth century. The St. Louis PD used their arsenal to fight organized crime and bootlegging operations during the Prohibition era, but the guns have been in storage since the 1960s.
Kentucky-based Midwest Distributors has agreed to pay $22,000 for each of the iconic rifles, but they will likely sell the old police arsenal to private parties for much, much more.
A local dealer valued the entire collection in 2014 at $770,000, and two 1920s Colt-made models are worth $31,000 apiece. The cheapest gun in the collection, an Auto-Ordinance/Savage M1 from 1942, was appraised at a mere $14,000.
St. Louis police considered auctioning the submachine guns themselves in 2014, and they could have raised considerably more money selling directly to collectors. But finding nearly 30 collectors willing to acquire the necessary federal permissions turned out to be too difficult, which forced the department to pursue an alternative course of action.
The NFA requirements severely limit the market, SLPD’s purchasing manager, Carol Shepard, told the Post-Dispatch.
Still, the department is happy to be able to pay for new handguns without dipping into taxpayer funds. The Tommy gun sale combined with the sale of the department’s old handguns will pay for 1,525 new 9 mm Beretta handguns as well as $350,000 worth of new AR-15s.
“The original reason to sell the weapons was to purchase new duty weapons, and we did so well on the sale, we will be able to purchase rifles as well, by our own actions without using any budget money,” Shepard said. “That was the most important thing for us. We made our own money to take care of our own problem.”
“It’s a part of history. I’m going to miss the weapon simply because it is a part of our history,” Christopher “Blake” Tucker, the department’s sergeant of the firearms division, told the Post-Dispatch. “There’s a side of me that I hate to see them go, but if it’s going to benefit the officers in the future, then I’ll have to live with that.”