Although he had two bulletproof vests and two revolvers, the Rev. Martin Green, colored, pastor of a church at 4421 South State street, went to the offices of the Detective magazine yesterday and tried to purchase a Thompson machine gun [sic]. The police were notified and he was arrested. His only explanation was that he wanted to be sure he was able to protect himself and his congregation. Dr. William Hickson of the psychopathic laboratory is to examine the minister.
– Chicago Daily Tribune, “Well Heeled Colored Pastor Tries to Buy Machine Gun” (20-AUG-1926)
The 36-year-old reverend had come to the right place – “Al” Dunlap, editor of the magazine The Detective at 1029 South Wabash Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, had a thriving side business selling steel-lined Dunrite “bullet-proof” vests (GURPS High-Tech, p. 66; Investigator Weapons 1: The 1920s and 1930s, p. 49) of his own design and make, and Thompson submachine guns in .45 ACP (GURPS High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, pp. 28-30; Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 87-89). Dunlap distributed no less than 65 of the submachine guns during the 1920s, at least three of which ended up in the hands of gangsters like “Fred Burke” or the Touhy Gang ‒ he was not always as circumspect about his customers as in this instance. John Dillinger’s favourite Model 1921AC submachine gun had originally been supplied by Dunlap to a sheriff’s office before it was stolen by Dillinger.
This story illustrates some of the pitfalls of the armed investigator. Yes, Thompsons were completely legal to buy and own during the 1920s, at least in most parts of the USA (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, pp. 4-5; Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 18-20). But no, it was not always as simple as handing over the cash, although in this instance the fact that the Reverend Green was not white was probably a compounding factor. By other newspaper accounts, the man did actually buy the gun, but was then visited by the police and relieved of the weapon. It is not quite clear on which legal basis either event would have occurred ‒ automatic weapons of this kind were legal for anyone in Illinois until 02-JUL-1931. Green had already acquired two Colt Government semiautomatic pistols in .45 ACP (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, pp. 17-18; Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 37-38), a carton of 50 rounds of .45 ACP, and two Dunrite vests.
Note that both the police and the psychiatrists got involved ‒ many an armed investigator may end up in either prison or the madhouse.