Sunday, March 27, 2011
In February, I wrote about legislation in Utah to make the Browning M1911 the official state gun. The legislation recently passed, and now Utah schoolchildren can learn all about this special new state symbol. Of course, there was some awkwardness in introducing the legislature after the mass shooting in Tucson that killed six and wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). There were also all kinds of verbal contortions to deny the fact that a gun is indeed an "implement of death" or that the focus of the bill was the gun itself:
Until this week, Utah had 24 state symbols, from tree (the blue spruce) to insect (the honeybee) to even cooking pot (the Dutch oven).
Now it's added an official state firearm -- the John M. Browning-designed M1911 pistol, becoming the first state in the nation to have one, according to the state legislator who sponsored the law.
...In a state more known for its strong Mormon traditions and breathtaking national parks, the creation of an official state firearm raised controversy, especially when the measure was pursued even after January's mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that killed six persons and wounded 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The bill was introduced just before the horrific shootings, Wimmer said.
"People say the timing is terrible, and I admit the timing is terrible," Wimmer said. "We have a part-time legislature in Utah, and we are only in session for 45 days. Certainly meaning no disrespect to the tragedy in Arizona, we moved forward in doing this because it's the only opportunity that we had."
Other critics have said the new state symbol implicitly condones gun violence.
"There was more controversy than I anticipated, but it really passed with bipartisan support," Wimmer said. "One of the biggest comments from the critics was that we should not honor an implement of death. And my response to that has always been that this firearm does not represent an implement of death. It represents an implement of freedom -- just the mere fact that our soldiers have used this firearm to defend liberty and freedom around the world for the last 100 years."
The governor's office played down the lethality of the new symbol and focused more on its creator.
"This bill isn't so much about a weapon as it is about honoring John Moses Browning, who was a Utah inventor and entrepreneur, and he repeatedly gave back to the state," said the governor's spokeswoman, Ally Isom.
The governor's office and both chambers of the legislature are controlled by Republicans.