FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. -- Noah Reynolds has asked the Forsyth County commissioners to postpone or cancel the trade of two 1928 Thompson submachine guns that he believes his father, William Neal Reynolds II, donated to the county.
The commissioners are scheduled to vote on the item tonight.
Noah Reynolds, who is currently involved in a lawsuit against the county over guns in Tanglewood Park, made the request to the commissioners in an email Friday.
He attached a Sept. 1, 1977, article from the Winston-Salem Journal that says Will Reynolds saved the sheriff’s office’s “old Thompson submachine gun from being sold a few years ago when he outbid another prospective buyer, bought the gun, and gave it back to the sheriff for posterity.”
Reynolds wrote to the commissioners that it seems obvious that his father bought the guns and gave them back to make a point: “Don’t sell them!”
The old article only mentions one gun, and Reynolds said Sunday in a phone interview that he would be okay with a compromise. The county could sell one gun and keep the other on display at the sheriff’s office.
Last Thursday, Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt said, “There’s a side of me that wishes we could maybe keep one of them to put up in the new sheriff’s building, but I understand that the deputies need those rifles and what not, and this is a way for us to meet their needs without having to use county dollars to do so.”
The sheriff’s office proposes to exchange the two Tommy guns for 88 new Bushmaster rifles, a trade that Chief Deputy Brad Stanley said was valued at around $60,000. Stanley said the department currently has only 66 rifles for 180 first responders.
Whisenhunt, the board’s vice chairwoman, said Sunday afternoon that she is not opposed to postponing a decision to get more information.
Richard Linville, the chairman of the board, said: “Right now, it’s not been taken off the agenda. If the board were to want to continue it, to get more information about it before making a decision, the board could do that.”
Linville said there had been a couple of different questions about the guns.
“One is, the price that’s being considered or what we’re getting in the trade … is that enough?” Linville said.
The sale price of Tommy guns varies greatly online, depending on the model and quality, from just under $20,000 to more than $60,000 apiece.
Stanley said his office sent out inquiries to 23 federal firearms dealers for bids.
“I’m not sure we shouldn’t take a little more time and make sure we’re doing the right thing for the county and the sheriff’s department,” Whisenhunt said.
The original ownership of the guns has come under question.
The only paperwork the county has provided for the guns is registration forms that Sheriff Ernie Shore filed with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division in 1968.
County leaders thought the guns were given to the sheriff’s office by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., while former deputy sheriff P. Huber Hanes III said that Will Reynolds gave them to the county.
Gordon Herigstad, a California man who researches Thompson submachine gun serial numbers, said his shipping records show that the guns were ordered by and shipped to the sheriff’s office in 1934.
Noah Reynolds wrote:
“From a legal perspective, it would appear that regardless of the original provenance of the guns, my father’s purchase and re-gifting would place him as the legal owner prior to the gift back to the county. His intention also seems clear – he cared enough about having the guns be available for the public to view at the Sheriff’s office that he bought them from the County and then gave the guns back.”
Reynolds said he spent several hours looking for a cancelled check to prove his dad’s role in the gun re-gifting but will not have time to go through all of the records by Monday night.
“If absolute legal proof is what you require, I will look further, but you do not really need it to vote to save the guns and put them on permanent display at the Sheriff’s Office,” Reynolds wrote.