Valentine’s Day Massacre: When Machine Guns Became Especially Evil

Burke Arsenal (courtesy Berrien County Sheriff's Department)

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, offers readers an excellent history of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (also covered in depth at Bootlegger Al Capone’s hit on his rivals achieved legendary status not simply because of the number of victims (seven) or the method (fake police lining up the victims and gunning them down) but also because of the firearms used: two Thompson machine guns. Like this . . .

“All seven men were lined up against the back inside wall of the garage and patted down,” added Kline. “The two fake cops then signaled to the pair in civilian clothes who had accompanied them. Two of the hitmen, who had Thompson submachine guns, one containing a 20-round box magazine and the other a 50-round drum, opened fire, continuing to spray their victims with bullets after they had all hit the floor.”

The seven men were literally ripped apart by the barrage of bullets, and two of the victims had their faces shot off, according to the coroner’s report.

The massacre went down on — strangely enough — February 14th, 1929. After the attempted assassination of Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 (by Giuseppe Zangara with a .32 pistol), Congress enacted The National Firearms Act, requiring federal certification for machine gun possession. That made civilian possession “problematic.”

As we all know, machine guns aren’t especially lethal. Even so, the chances of a repeal of the Hughes Amendment to “allow” civilian ownership of [post-1986 machine guns] are somewhere between slim and none, and slim just left town.

That maintains their high price and gives events like the Knob Creek machine gun shoot and the Texas Firearms Festival’s “Full-Auto Friday” their unique appeal.

A love that dare not speak its name? Not around here. Happy Valentine’s Day!


  1. avatar Arkansas kurt says:

    They were so much deader because of the machine guns. If only the gangsters had been using 1911s, or 03a3s, they would not have been nearly so dead. a true tragedy.

    1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

      Winchester Model 12 shotguns would not have made them so dead. Since Model 12s were designed for a sporting purpose and not automatic, the entire incident would have been much more sporting per some Philadelphia politicians. We really need to put more sport into these gang executions.

      1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

        Uh, oh, I think I may be seeing a couple pump shotguns and a lever action rifle in the photo. These guys were just being poor sports.

      2. avatar CRF says:

        Make them more sporting? Hey! A group of novels called “the hunger games” just gave me an idea… Or maybe death race. Or do like the ancient Romans did and make it an arena event. Oh the possibilities.

    2. avatar 16V says:

      No h/t for pointing out the oversight? Just rewrite the article and into the memory hole, eh Dan? (I assume RF is busy today…)

  2. avatar Nate in the land of townships says:

    Read that the NFA was based on a Michigan law written 3 years earlier. Sorry on behalf of Michigan. (Even though my grandparents weren’t even born yet at the time it passed)

  3. avatar James69 says:

    100 round drums? BR vests??? Looks like a cutts comp on the tommygun on the right. Wow! Cool toys!

  4. avatar TXGal says:

    Criminal gangs killing other gang criminals and that’s a problem?
    I don’t think so, way over reaction
    from candy pants politicians, same with silencers.

    1. avatar BDub says:

      Politicians don’t like it when somebody fucks with their source of income, so machine-guns had to go.

  5. avatar Bob R says:

    None of this would have happened were it not for the violence of government using their guns to make alcohol “illegal.”

    Same thing is going on with drug prohibition. All of the drug related violence is 100% the fault of government and the people who support them.

    1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

      Yes. The War On Drugs is the SSDD of Prohibition.

  6. avatar derfel cadarn says:

    Would these men have been any less dead if the acvt was accomplished with shotguns ? Would the cleanup been any easier ? The kind of weapon has no bearing on the result.

    1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

      More sporting with shotguns.

      1. avatar Another Robert says:

        Especially since shotguns apparently weren’t made specifically to kill people–unlike those eeeeevillll semi-autos….

    2. avatar Cliff H says:

      Being born and raised in Chicago I thought I remembered this fact, but a quick review of Wikipedia conferms that the weapons used in the shooting were two Thompsons and two shotguns.

  7. avatar barnbwt says:

    Fake cops using uniforms & machineguns when the real cops were already bought & paid for and owned the same equipment, and both groups knew eachother’s members (remember the bought & paid for bit)? I’ll just bet the real cops were uninvolved. Just like the real cops in Mexico were uninvolved in the massacre of 40 student protestors with new HK machinguns by cartel enforcers (at the behest of the mayor)

  8. avatar Owen says:

    I always find the part that they were “fake police” a little fishy. If nobody survived how do we know they weren’t just bought off Chicago PD? The total corruption back then is part of why the FBI was formed. And then there is the fact that prohibition funded the whole thing.

  9. avatar Rooster says:

    Back then 7 dead in Chicago was a massacre. Today its called a slow weekend.

    1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

      Chiraq was probably a safer place with the Rum Runners in organized crime.
      The NFA made us all safer.

      1. avatar FormerWaterWalker says:

        Much safer in ye olden daze. Now there’s thousands of teen gangbangers shooting at everyone willy nilly in Chiraq. Like the poor 25year old gal shot in the head randomly last week in Pilsen. Scarface and his pals were(mostly) just shooting at rival gangs. Interesting google search…

      2. avatar jwm says:

        I don’t want to say anything nice about scarface and his type, but……

        Those old gangsters were violent, they were a gang after all, but they had rules. Killing was only done at need. It was limited, as much as possible, to other gangsters. Women and children were off limits and if you broke these basic rules you got got.

        Modern gangs are savages. Cannibals.

  10. avatar kap says:

    Funny how Chicago plays out in the gun control thing because of the Political [email protected]@@s We got the Gun act of 1934 so the Democrats could say they did something under FDR, so now we have the most useless president we have ever had and is from Chicago!

  11. avatar stateisevil says:

    We allowed them to take full auto’s forever, we’ll never get them back now. Look at what happened to suppressors and SBRs, two things with absolutely NO legitimate rationale behind their regulation. Full auto’s could be more lethal in the right circumstance; how much more impossible to get them out of the NFA?

  12. avatar tsbhoA.P.jr says:

    any mention of the massacre has me salivating for one of the weird upside down bowl served pizzas from chicago pizza and oven grinder. they are directly across the street from the fabled garage, and what is now a law office above what has been the restaurant since the early seventies “may have been” a lookout for capone’s darling’s on this date back then.

  13. avatar jwm says:

    Machine guns aren’t especially lethal? Look up the Vickers water cooled, belt fed .303 and get back to me on that opinion.

  14. avatar Out_Fang_Thief says:

    So, the only legal justification for banning machine guns, SBR’s, and suppressor’s, is that they were used by criminals? That’s about the flimsiest legal excuse/reasoning I’ve ever heard. And we’re supposed to believe that this unconstitutional BS can’t be legally challenged? If there’s anything needs to be challenged, it’s exactly this. What part of “shall not be infringed” didn’t the courts understand back in the 20’s and 30’s? Back in the 20’s, fascism was quietly spreading around Europe, and was thought to be the newest political way, even here. To not challenge the legal standing of these unconstitutional bans is what’s wrong here. These bans are one of the big reasons why our govt. no longer fears us.

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