St Valentine’s Day Massacre
In 1929, the Irish-American gang led by Bugs Moran, and the Southern side Italian gang led by Al Capone struggled to take control of organized crime in Chicago and resulted in the murder of six mob associates and mechanics of Northside Irish gang. These killings were given the name of Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.
During the era of prohibition, gangsters ruled many large cities. They owned many speakeasies, breweries and betting joints. However, in the late 1920s, the two rival gangs split Chicago. Al Capone led one of these gangs and Bugs Moran directed the other. For years, both tried to overpower each other.
McGurn was an associate of Al Capone. Once, he visited him to discuss on-going problems of Moran’s gang. McGurn asked Al Capone to eliminate the Moran gang. Al Capone agreed to his idea and funded McGurn for a planned assassination. McGurn carefully planned all the aspects to eliminate Moran’s gang. Foreign lookouts were hired, to ensure that no could recognize them in case of any survivors. They also stole a police car and two police uniforms. McGurn instructed the local booze captor to offer Moran an old log whiskey, which he is willing to sell at reasonable rate. Moran agreed and told captor to meet him at 10:30 in his garage on 14th of February.
The plan of termination of the Moran’s gang was such a blood stained one that each of the victims was shot at least fifteen bullets in their heads and chest. Since the killers were wearing police uniform, the neighbors thought police had staged a raid.
Although the plan was carefully crafted. However, there occurred a major problem. The man who was identified as ‘Bugs’, was not him. He arrived late, and on seeing a police car outside the garage, he stayed away from the building. This massacre took seven lives on the valentine’s day of 1929. The police investigated their best nevertheless, failed because Al Capone was in Miami on the day of incident and McGurn was at hotel. The incident brought Al Capone to the attention of the Federal government. Although, people knew that Al Capone was responsible for that massacre, but police never had enough evidence to convict him. Al Capone raised as the new ruler and sole gang leader of the Chicago City.
Into this consequence-free environment stepped gangsters with a new tool: the Thompson submachine gun. One of the first portable and fully automatic firearms, the “Tommy gun” was a weapon of war that missed its moment, produced too late to serve in World War I. Its manufacturer, facing ruin, tried to market the gun as a self-defense weapon, aided by the fact that the Thompson was so novel the law had yet to catch up with it. In those days, Chicagoans could buy a Tommy gun more easily than they could a handgun.
The Thompson found eager buyers among the criminal class, who appreciated its lethality and the ease with which it could be concealed. Like today’s AR-15, the Tommy gun enabled many of the era’s most heinous crimes — from the murder of a Chicago prosecutor, William McSwiggin, in 1926 to the killing of four lawmen in what became known as the “Kansas City Massacre” of 1933. But while the Thompson empowered gangsters to kill more people more quickly, it hadn’t created this crime wave — it had merely amplified it.
Solving the problem required addressing its root causes, and the private sector took the initiative. Spurred on by the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, wealthy Chicagoans hired Col. Calvin Goddard, a pioneer of forensic ballistics, to help solve the crime. Goddard successfully matched the bullets found at the scene to two Tommy guns confiscated from one of Capone’s killers, in one of the earliest uses of ballistics evidence in American history. Police across the country now had a new investigative tool that has since become standard practice.
Other elite Chicagoans, giving up on paralyzed local government, pressured President Herbert Hoover for help. He responded by sending federal agents, who effected Capone’s conviction for income tax evasion in 1931. That same year, voters ousted Mayor Thompson in favor of a reform candidate, Anton Cermak. The new mayor stayed friendly with certain gangsters — Chicago would only clean up so far — but Big Bill Thompson’s wide-open town had begun to quiet down.
The city fathers behind these efforts were not acting selflessly. They saw how Chicago’s reputation for gangsterism and violence scared off business and harmed their own interests. Public outrage forced them to act, because they couldn’t afford inaction. The economic incentives for cleaning up the city had grown stronger than the corrupt ties protecting Capone.
In 1932, Americans chose a new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who supported ending Prohibition. Once in office, Roosevelt pursued a “war on crime” that included the first federal gun control law in American history: the National Firearms Act of 1934, specifically intended to keep the Tommy gun out of private hands. Denied a private market, the Thompson would fulfill its intended purpose by accompanying GI.s onto the battlefields of World War II.
Five years after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, America’s law enforcement landscape had transformed. Capone was in prison, Congress had targeted the Tommy gun, and the “G-men” of the F.B.I. were fighting crime scientifically. Partly in response to the massacre, all levels of government had made it harder to commit and get away with murder, while eliminating some underlying causes of gang violence — beginning with Prohibition itself.
We should be ashamed that the killing of criminals 90 years ago could help spur such change, while the repeated slaughter of children prompts little more than “thoughts and prayers” from lawmakers today. The story of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre shows how public outrage can create meaningful reform when the political and economic costs of inaction outweigh the inertia preserving the status quo.Continue reading the main story