Utah seems set to make history by becoming the first state with an official state handgun. Last week its House of Representatives voted 51 to 19 on a bill to honour the Browning M1911 semi-automatic pistol as a state symbol. Invented by John Browning, a Utahan, in 1911, the gun has been used by military and police forces ever since. “This firearm has defended liberty and freedom around the country and around the world,” says Republican state Rep. Carl Wimmer, who’s leading the political charge.
However, the designation is not without controversy, given that the vote came less than three weeks after an assassination attempt by Jared Loughner, using a Glock semi-automatic, critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others in next-door Arizona. “It’s an embarrassment” to have a symbol such as a gun, decried Steve Gunn of the Gun Violence Prevention Center. However, political opposition is muted in the fiercely pro-gun state. If the bill passes the state Senate, the Browning will take its place alongside other illustrious Utah symbols such as the Dutch oven (state cooking pot) and the sugar beet (historic vegetable).