Utah has a state tree (the blue spruce), a state insect (the honey bee), and last week the Browning M1911 handgun came one step closer to becoming the official state firearm.
On a one-time-only holiday honoring Utah gun-maker John Moses Browning, a bill that would designate the handgun as a state symbol was endorsed by a state House committee on the way to becoming Utah law.
“It’s an implement of freedom that has defended America for 100 years,” bill sponsor Rep. Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman) said. “This firearm is Utah.”
Some see the bill an insensitive considering a recent mass shooting in the neighboring state of Arizona that left six dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in the hospital.
“Semiautomatic pistols are the weapons of choice for those who are committing massacres,” Steven Gunn, a board member of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, told the committee. “Is this the time to adopt as a symbol of the state the same kind of weapon used to kill all these people?”
Only two state representatives, Jennifer Seelig (D-Salt Lake City) and Marie Poulson (D-Cottonwood Heights), opposed the bill, which was approved 9-2.
“I think a lot of people think this is a big waste of time,” Seelig told MSNBC Monday. “Particularly since we are facing some economic challenges in this state.”
“If we want to honor an historical figure that’s great. Let’s do this another way than going through some official designation of a state symbol. A state symbol is supposed to be something that unifies the population in the state, and guns certainly are a divisive type of unit, and it’s polarizing,” she added. “We do not need that.”
“The state bird, the beehive, they’re fun and engaging,” Rep. Carol Spackman Moss (D-Salt Lake City) told The Standard-Examiner. “Students will be coloring and drawing pictures and answering quizzes about guns and that seems inappropriate to me.”
If Utah does adopt the handgun as a state symbol, the state will join the likes of the nation of Mozambique, which is the only nation that features a firearm as an official insignia, on their flag.
This video is from MSNBC’s News Live, broadcast Jan. 31, 2011.