The St. Louis Police Department is auctioning 30 Thompson submachine guns so that officers can be equipped with modern weapons, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The department took the old guns out of service about 60 years ago; most are stored in a basement bunker. Chief Sam Dotson and some collectors believe it may be the biggest police-owned stock of Thompsons in the U.S.; they might fetch $1 million at an auction.
The sale is necessary, Dotson said, because $1.4 million earmarked for new pistols was slashed from this year's budget. “That's the fiscal reality,” he said. The sale, if a little bittersweet, is welcomed by the St. Louis Police Officers Association. It has long lobbied for larger and more powerful .40-caliber pistols to replace the 9mm Berettas that officers have carried for about two decades. Choosing a new handgun has been part of contract talks with the police union in recent months. Jeff Roorda, the union's business manager, understands the lure of the Thompsons. “It'd be nice for nostalgia to have those in the police department forever,” he said. “But the more pressing need now is that officers have firepower that matches the firepower in the hands of the bad guys.” The department plans to keep at least one of the Tommy guns as a historical piece.