Utah Has a State Firearm?
When you think about progressive states, California and New York spring to mind. Utah, land of Mormons and evaporating lakes, does not seem a likely candidate.
It came as something of a surprise, then, that Utah took the lead and became the first state to legislate a state firearm: the Browning M1911 pistol.
The M1911 was adopted by all branches of the military, hence the “M,” in 1911. It was designed by John Browning, a Utah native, and, somewhat belatedly, is evidently a source of great pride among Utah legislators. This pistol is so well-designed that it is still standard issue for some elite military units, even as the biplane has been replaced by the B-2.
Whereas state trees, birds, flowers, even insects all seem harmless symbols of whatever might tickle ostensibly busy legislators’ fancies, a state firearm would appear to be a somewhat more aggressive notion.
How long can it be before North Dakota memorializes the buffalo rifle? Illinois the Tommy gun? Texas the hydrogen bomb? This could be an unfortunate trend.
I’ll be the first to admit that, by and large, I find firearms and, by extension, hydrogen bombs unfortunate inventions. I think the world would be better off if men still had to kill living beings the old-fashioned, difficult way — with rocks or bare hands. Still, I realize that cat is long out of the bag.
Why would the fine folks in Utah want a state firearm? Weren’t they satisfied with a state tree (the blue spruce), a state insect (the honeybee) and a state cooking pot (the Dutch oven)? If the purpose were to honor Mr. Browning, a statue overlooking the Great Salt Lake would probably have done nicely.
The bill was introduced by State Rep. Carl Wimmer, who admitted that it was a bit more controversial than he had anticipated.
“People say the timing was terrible, and I admit the timing was terrible,” Wimmer said, after criticism that it closely followed the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six others in Arizona. Wimmer maintains that “this firearm does not represent an implement of death. It represents an implement of freedom.” Irony is not dead in Utah.
Since the Utah legislature only meets 45 days a year, and this year is the 100th anniversary of the M1911’s development, Wimmer thought the measure’s time was now or never.
Perhaps never would have been a better choice. It has not gone unnoticed in the liberal media that both houses of the Utah legislature are controlled by Republicans, as is the governor’s mansion. Wimmer himself is running for a newly created House seat and has been accused of simply seeking publicity. Those who say that all publicity is good publicity may have to rethink their position.
Creating a state firearm may or may not play well in Utah. Time will tell, but it should not play well anywhere. Enough time is wasted naming state birds, trees, special days and whatnot, without wasting more glamorizing implements of death. Why not name cyanide the state poison?
Utah is by reputation a relatively crime-free and morally upright place, if you don’t count a few last outposts of polygamy. Perhaps with hindsight, future legislators will un-name the M1911, or at least declare a state Kevlar vest.
Meanwhile, the rest of the states can be satisfied with their own birds and trees, and hopefully not feel pressured to follow Utah’s example. There must be well over 49 more firearms and various other potential weapon candidates available, but there could be a real scramble for the big ones, leaving someone — Rhode Island, perhaps — with the derringer, or even the slingshot.
Fred Wolferman lives in Southern Pines. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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