The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 21, 2012

Rapid-fire bidding greets Bonnie and Clyde guns

By Wally Kennedy
wkennedy@joplinglobe.com

— A Thompson submachine gun and a shotgun left behind when Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow fled Joplin in a shootout with the law in 1933 brought $210,000 at auction Saturday.

The .45-caliber Tommy gun fetched $130,000. The 12-gauge 1897 model Winchester shotgun brought $80,000.

Both were purchased by an online bidder who lives on the East Coast. Mayo Auction, of Kansas City, was not given permission to release the name of the buyer.

Approximately 150 people turned out Saturday morning to watch the guns sell in about 10 to 15 minutes of bidding. There were five active bidders. The guns were among 120 that were sold Saturday.

“There was definitely an energy in the room the closer we got to selling the Tommy gun,’’ said Robert Mayo, owner of the auction house, in a telephone interview Saturday.

“As we were ramping up, people were getting excited,” he said. “There was a sense of being a witness to history.’’

The auction established a value for the guns.

Said Mayo: “This is their value today. They have never been sold before. It will be more fun 70 to 80 years from now. What will they be worth then?’’

The guns were auctioned by the Lairmore family of Springfield. Mayo said the family was happy with the price and that both guns went to the same buyer.

The weapons are believed to be among those seized after a raid April 13, 1933, at the outlaws’ apartment hideout near 34th Street and Oak Ridge Drive in Joplin.

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, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. The film in the camera, which was developed by The Joplin Globe at the time, 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.

Until recently, the guns were displayed in the Springfield Police Museum. They have been in the possession of the Lairmore family since the Great Depression.

A police officer at the time of the raid in Joplin gave the weapons to Mark Lairmore, who was a Tulsa, Okla., police detective at the time.

 Said Mayo: “This was by far the most exciting auction we have ever conducted. To see something with this kind of history. There was so much excitement.’’





Tommy gun

The 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.