Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

State Bird, State Flower, State Gun? Utah Could Be First to Have One

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

State Bird, State Flower, State Gun? Utah Could Be First to Have One

Article excerpt

The Utah House passed a measure to make the Browning M1911 semiautomatic the state gun in honor of Utahn John Browning. Critics question the wisdom of having a state gun.

As most of Utah's school kids hopefully know, the state's cooking pot is the Dutch oven, its state fish is the Bonneville Cutthroat trout and the state song is called, "Utah, This is the Place." Now, they may soon have to add a semiautomatic hand gun, the Browning M1911, to their homework on state symbols.

In one of the most controversial state symbol designations since Alabama in 2006 attempted to name the peach the state fruit (amid protests from its neighbor Georgia, the Peach State), the Utah House voted on Wednesday to honor Utah-born John Browning, the M1911's inventor, by naming the semiautomatic hand gun America's first state gun.

In a country that's increasingly embracing gun rights over gun control, the gun as symbol of defending freedom and Utah values may be understandable. But coming less than a month after a suspect allegedly used a semiautomatic gun to open fire on a congressional meet-and-greet in Tucson, Ariz., the gambit also met with concerns about the appropriateness lionizing a deadly weapon.

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The Browning M1911 became an official Army sidearm in 1911, and was first tested in action in Mexico as the US Army chased the Mexican raider Pancho Villa after his attack on Columbus, N.M, in 1916. Known as one of the most enduring pistol designs in the world, it was used by police and military all over the world, and is still in circulation today.

Critics: A state symbol that 'kills innocent people'?

But not everyone in Utah is keen to single out a gun as something that symbolizes the Beehive State.

Utah state Rep. Carol Moss, a Democrat from Holladay, worried during a floor debate about the primary audience for state designations: school kids doing projects about their state. …

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