SALT LAKE CITY—On the opening day of the Utah Legislature’s 2011 session, tourists, lawmakers and law enforcement officers gathered in the rotunda of the state Capitol. Many state capitol buildings are increasing security to keep guns out. In Utah, however, the Capitol build is hosting at least 50 weapons of all kinds.Last year, the Utah Legislature named Jan. 24, 2011, as a one-time-only holiday honoring Utah native son and gun inventor, John M. Browning. The date coincides with Browning’s birthday and the 100th anniversary of the invention of one of his most popular gun designs, the M1911 semi-automatic machine pistol.In celebration, Browning Firearms sponsored a display of Browning-designed weapons, borrowed from the Fort Douglas Museum, in the state Capitol rotunda.As the guns were displayed downstairs, a Utah House committee upstairs debated a bill to name the Browning M1911 handgun as the nation’s only state firearm. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Carl Wimmer, a Republican from Herriman, would make Utah the first state to adopt an official state gun, alongside other Utah state symbols—the seagull, the honeybee and beehive, the Dutch oven as state cookpot, the Rocky Mountain elk, the sugar beet and coal. In opposing Wimmer’s measure, Steve Gunn of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah testified against the bill. He said it was inappropriate to create a state symbol of an automatic pistol like those used in recent massacres in Tucson, Virginia Tech, and Fort Hood, Texas.”It’s an embarrassment to the state to have as a symbol that was used only a few weeks ago to kill innocent people,” Gunn said, referring to the Jan. 8 Tucson shootings that killed six people and wounded 13, including U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.But Wimmer says it is appropriate to honor Browning. “He invented a firearm that has defended American values and the traditions of this country for 100 years,” Wimmer told the House Political Subdivisions Committee.The bill passed the House committee on a 9-2 vote and awaits full legislative approval as H.B. 219.
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