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Jenkins to sell ‘Tommy gun,’ but not unless offers bring $75,000-plus


The Jenkins City Council has voted to sell a Thompson submachine gun like the one pictured here. The gun was donated to the city in 1921.

The Jenkins City Council has voted to sell a Thompson submachine gun like the one pictured here. The gun was donated to the city in 1921.

The Jenkins City Council voted to auction off one of its oldest and most unusual artifacts at its January meeting. Near the end of the meeting, Mayor Todd Depriest told the council that a .45 caliber Thompson submachine gun that was given to the city in 1921 has been in storage for years and that if the city wants to get realize the best auction price it is likely to get, the time is now.

Depriest said several gun collectors who are aware the city has the “Tommy gun” have told him that it will probably bring between $75,000 and $125,000 at auction. He said the low serial number, 91, is one of the main factors in its value to collectors because it indicates it was one of the earliest models produced. The proceeds from the auction will be used as matching funds for grants to purchase badly needed equipment for the city, including a new police cruiser.

The Thompson submachine gun was patented in 1920 by designer General John T. Thompson. It weighs almost 10 pounds empty and is fed by two different magazines, a 20- or 30-round standard box magazine and the iconic round “drum” magazine, which holds 50 .45 caliber cartridges. The Tommy gun with the drum magazine was made famous in the gangster movies of the 1930s as the weapon favored by gunmen. Many military units disliked the drum magazine because of its weight.

Although the U.S. Army and Marine Corps both approved the Thompson as a possible “trench sweeper” in World War I, the weapon was not adopted by the United States for military use until 1928. It was used by both the U.S. and British armies during World War II and Americans favored it for non-commissioned officers, commissioned officers, tank crewmen, and Airborne and Ranger units.

Tens of thousands Thompson guns were produced and they were greatly favored by many guerilla forces, including the Viet Cong. It was also used by South Vietnamese forces and occasionally by American forces in the Vietnam War. The 7.62-millimeter M-14 was initially issued to American forces in the early stages of the war, although it was replaced by the lighter 5.56-millimeter M-16 as the primary infantry weapon. Lighter, smaller caliber automatic weapons have generally replaced the Thompson by now, but it still is highly sought by collectors.

Councilman Rick Damron said he was generally opposed to selling a piece of the city’s history, but in light of the value and the city’s needs, he suggested that at least a portion of the money the city gets from the auction be placed in a “rainy day fund.” The council members decided to consider Damron’s suggestion after they find out how much the city will get for the gun, and voted to declare it surplus, to be auctioned by an auction house that specializes in guns, with a reserve of $75,000.

In other business, Depriest introduced Jenkins’ newest council members, Shaun Collier and Sammy Elswick, both of whom won election last November. He also told the council that fellow member Rebecca Amburgey was unable to attend because she is hospitalized in Lexington.

Mayor Depriest told the council the city is now actively seeking funding to finish replacing the remainder of the city’s water lines. Over 90 percent of the city’s lines are new, but there are still older lines running along some places on Highway 805 and in some of the hollows on steep grades with only a few houses. Depriest said that when this project is finished, the city will have all new water lines.

Jenkins resident David Back asked the council to look at several places on B&O Hill where the road is partially blocked, either by garbage and debris from houses, or from cars that are improperly parked or abandoned. Back said a driver needs to plot a zigzag course to get through the road. Depriest said he will have the Jenkins Police Department look into the matter.

Depriest told the council that Bike Nite will be held on the third Saturday of each month in City Park from May through October. The popular Cruise-In will continue to be on the first Saturday of each month. Depriest asked the council to consider zoning for business and commercial property to preserve property values, by preventing the possible location of a dilapidated or undesirable building alongside a valuable commercial or business property. He added that zoning will help the city in removing blighted and deteriorated property. Zoning is already enforced at the Gateway Industrial Park.

The council voted to purchase a singlewide house trailer owned by Mary Prichard that is located at the entrance to Little Shepherd Amphitheater. Depriest said he plans to lease the trailer to city police officers so they can reside in the city and the rental will cover the cost of the loan payment. The trailer is estimated at between $8,000 and $12,000.

The city produced 12,327,000 galloons of treated water in December and sold 9,787,000 gallons, leaving a difference of 2,540,000. Of that amount, 559,000 gallons is accounted for, including 455,000 gallons of water treatment plant use, 25,000 for fire department use and 79,000 in a net computer adjustment. That left 1,981,000 gallons unaccounted for or a 16 percent unaccounted loss.

The Jenkins Police Department responded to 42 calls of service in December. Of that, 10 were for citations, five were warnings, and 14 resulted in arrests. Four arrests were from warrants, one was for DUI, three were drug related, and three were for domestic violence. The department issued two summonses and responded to two collisions with injury and six without injury. They also answered five motorist assists.

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