JOPLIN, Mo. —
Want to own a tommy gun once toted by Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow?
Prospective bidders will get that chance during a gun auction later this month in Kansas City.
Also on the block is a 12-gauge 1897 model Winchester shotgun that was used by the outlaws.
The weapons are believed to be among those seized after a raid April 13, 1933, at the outlaws’ apartment hide-out near 34th Street and Oak Ridge Drive in Joplin. Until recently, the guns were displayed in the Springfield Police Museum.
The guns have been in the family of Mark Lairmore and his sisters, of Springfield, since the Great Depression. A police officer at the time of the raid in Joplin gave the weapons to their great-grandfather, who was a Tulsa, Okla., police detective at the time. His name also was Mark Lairmore.
“They were the major draw of the museum, and I don’t think they were all that anxious to give them up,” Lairmore said in a statement released by the auction house, Mayo Auction and Realty.
“But my father and grandfather have also passed away, so the sentimental reasons to hold them are no longer there,” Lairmore said. “I feel it’s time for someone with an appreciation of antique guns and the history behind these guns to own them and care for them.”
Lairmore said a newspaper account about the time of the raid documented how a police officer by the name of Thomas Persell had been kidnapped and held by the outlaws in their car.
Said Lairmore: “They bragged to the officer about having stolen the tommy gun in Ohio. The serial number on my gun is the same as the one that was listed as stolen in Ohio.”
Lairmore said the guns were “a gift from one policeman to another. There was no reason to invent a fairy tale to go along with it. What’s unfortunate is, we don’t know who that policeman was. If we did, we might have an airtight case. But we don’t.”
On the afternoon of April 13, 1933, five lawmen in two cars, armed only with handguns, descended on the apartment, and a bloody gunfight ensued. Two of the lawmen — Newton County Constable John Wesley Harryman and Joplin police Detective Harry McGinnis — were killed. Clyde Barrow, Buck Barrow and fellow gang member W.D. “Deacon” Jones were injured.
After the raid, police confiscated guns, a camera and personal items from the apartment in Joplin, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Among the personal items confiscated were necklaces once warn by Parker. They are on display in the Joplin Museum Complex.
The film in the camera, which was developed by The Joplin Globe, was of special interest. The images on the film, which include some with the guns, were the first to identify the outlaws. Historians say the publication of those images in newspapers across the country spelled the beginning of the end for the duo.
There is a possibility that the .45-caliber Thompson submachine gun might have seen action in Oronogo. A few months before the raid on the Joplin apartment, members of the gang arrived in Carthage, where they planned the robbery of the Farmer and Miners Bank of Oronogo. They made off with $110. There was a shootout with a bank teller. It was believed to be the first local incident in which a submachine gun was used in a robbery, records show.
Robert Mayo, owner of the Kansas City auction house, said in phone interview Tuesday that it will be an exciting day for the auction company because it is “so rare to see something this notable.”
“These guns are highly collectible and would draw attention in any sale by their own history and merit,” he said. “We are expecting specialist collectors and anyone interested in the mesmerizing tale of Bonnie and Clyde from around the world to be interested in getting their hands on them.”
The guns are expected to bring several thousand dollars each.
“We don’t do pre-auction estimates,” Mayo said. “We’ll let the buyers tell us what they are worth at the end of the day. It’s what someone is willing to pay for them.”
Melton Lairmore, Mark Lairmore’s father, registered the Thompson submachine gun under the name of Lairmore Armored Car Inc. in 1968 in accordance with the Gun Control Act of 1968. The weapons were displayed in the Springfield Police Museum, known as The Calaboose, from 1973 until 2011.
The .45-caliber Thompson submachine gun is fully automatic, and the buyer will be required to fill out the appropriate paperwork and application with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
THE AUCTION BEGINS with a preview from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, at Mayo Auction and Realty, 8253 Wornall Road, Kansas City. Online and absentee bidding will be available.
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Want to own a tommy gun once toted by Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow?
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