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Tinley Park police chief wants to auction off Tommy guns, M-16 rifles

(MCT) — The Thompson "Tommy gun" submachine gun may have been good enough for "The Untouchables," but it isn't of much use in modern-day crime fighting, so Tinley Park Police Chief Steve Neubauer would like to put the department's stock of the iconic firearms up for sale.

Of course, that would be only two Tommy guns, along with four Vietnam vintage M-16 rifles, that have been kept in the armory inventory for the department since the 1960s, when Tinley Police got them from the federal government as Army surplus.

Neubauer said he has no idea if they've been used in the decades since, and he's asked village officials to put them up for auction, where they might fetch more than $70,000 from collectors.

"There is no use for weapons like these in 2012 urban policing," Neubauer said.

Neubauer said the guns clearly were military surplus, and aren't leftover evidence from some Capone Era case, which probably hurts their resale value as historical items. Had they been evidence in an investigation or confiscated from someone, they would have been tagged and kept as evidence and either returned to their owners or destroyed.

"No one was shot with these guns, as far as I know," he said.

But they have been maintained by the department over the years, and are in perfect working order. The Tommy guns do not have the familiar circular drum magazine of gangster lore, nor a violin case in which to carry them.

Tinley Police officers who were gun aficionados alerted Neubauer to the guns, which are kept locked up at the department, not long after he became head of the department a year ago. The guns, particularly the 1928 Thompsons, were sort of a curiosity. Among collectors, they're highly coveted, with an auction house estimating their worth at about $70,400.

The guns are fully automatic — a feature that since the time of Elliot Ness has fallen out of vogue in high-population environments such as the Cook County suburbs — and could only be sold by a specially licensed auctioneer to a specially licensed collector, Neubauer said.

Before they could be sold, the village needs to designate them as surplus and arrange for the sale. Typically, surplus village property would be sold off and the revenue put directly into the general budget, but Neubauer has asked to earmark the money for a new vehicle for the department and dress uniforms for a new honor guard.

Clerk Pat Rea, who has been in village government for 40 years, said he hoped the department would keep at least one Tommy gun, hinting at rumors about the weapons' history. Asked last week what those rumors might be, Rea declined to comment on any details.

"I would hope that we're going to keep one," he said.

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