By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A Tommy gun and a shotgun believed seized in a police shootout with gangsters Bonnie and Clyde in Joplin, Missouri, in 1933 are headed for the auction block.
Strong interest is expected in the January 21 auction of the weapons, which were displayed in a Springfield, Missouri, police museum for nearly 40 years until the owner decided recently to put them up for sale.
The .45-caliber 1921 Thompson submachine gun is better known as a "Tommy gun," commonly depicted in movies and crime lore. It and an 1897 12-gauge Winchester shotgun will be sold by Mayo Auction & Realty in Kansas City.
A firearms dealer in Liberty, Missouri, who once sold a pistol owned by 19th Century U.S. outlaw Frank James said she expects the Tommy gun to sell for at least $25,000.
Kathy Peisert, owner of Great Guns, said the chance to obtain guns with a colorful history would excite collectors.
On April 13, 1933, police raided a Joplin apartment where Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were hiding out. Two officers died in the shootout. Bonnie and Clyde escaped.
A police officer gave the weapons to Mark Lairmore, a Tulsa police officer at the time, and they have remained in the family ever since, according to an account posted on the Mayo website.
Lairmore's great-grandson, also named Mark Lairmore, said his father and grandfather were dead and there was little sentimental reason to keep the guns.
"I feel it's time for someone with an appreciation of antique guns and the history behind these guns to own them and care for them," Lairmore said in a statement by Mayo.
Company owner Robert Mayo declined to estimate the value of the guns.
"A lot of people have a fascination with Bonnie and Clyde and it's very rare we get a chance to sell something like this," Mayo said.
The notorious outlaws were gunned down in a police ambush in May 1934 in Louisiana, a little more than a year after the shootout in Joplin.
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty played the outlaws in the 1967 movie "Bonnie and Clyde" directed by Arthur Penn.
(Editing by David Bailey and Daniel Trotta)