- Associated Press - Monday, January 13, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Forsyth County commissioners on Monday delayed a vote that would have led to the trade of a pair of vintage Tommy guns for dozens of new rifles for his deputies.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1dr80Tv) that the commissioners voted unanimously to delay the vote for 30 days.

Questions arose as to whether the county actually owned the guns, and one commissioner asked if the sheriff’s office needed the 88 Bushmaster rifles it was seeking.

Law enforcement agencies have for decades been selling off or trading away the Tommy guns that entered their arsenals from the 1920s into the 1960s, said Tracie Hill, the author of two books on Tommy guns who has appraised the value of the old weapons for police departments that own them.

It was common for major employers to buy the weapons and give them to police for protection on paydays, when payrolls were met by handing out cash to workers, Hill said.

It’s not clear when the Forsyth County sheriff acquired its Tommy guns. Federal gun registration documents from 1968 state that the sheriff’s department acquired the machine guns sometime before 1936. The .45-caliber weapons are described as 1928 models.

The sheriff’s office sought bids from 23 federal firearms dealers before settling on an offer from Craig’s Firearm Supply Inc. of Knoxville, Tenn. Company executive Wally Johnson declined comment, saying no deal has been completed.

The gun that first appeared after World War I is named for former Army Gen. John T. Thompson, who helped develop the lightweight rifle that would fire bullets as long as the trigger was held. The U.S. and allied militaries used the weapon during WWII. The fully automatic version of the gun is no longer made, Hill said.

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