Utah's Senate is considering a bill that recognizes a handgun as an official state symbol, a potential national first that has provoked outrage from anti-violence activists. The measure to honor the semiautomatic M1911 handgun was passed by the state House this week, where its sponsor called the gun — created by Utah gunmaker John Moses Browning — "an implement of freedom that has defended America for 100 years." But the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah said the move sends a terrible message, because semi-automatic pistols "are the weapons of choice for those who are committing massacres," such as the recent Arizona rampage. Is Utah's government tone-deaf?
Bad idea, worse timing: After the Tuscon massacre, where a similar firearm was employed, this is "hardly the most sensitive timing," says Guy Adams in Britain's The Independent. It's not exactly surprising, given that Utah has some of the most "relaxed gun laws" anywhere, but it's easy to understand why gun-control advocates don't think "an implement designed for killing people" is something even "trigger-happy" lawmakers should be celebrating.
"Welcome to Utah — please shoot carefully"
The Browning gun is worthy of recognition: Some people oppose anything that involves guns, says Tom Remington at Black Bear Blog, but Browning's weapon has "had a worldwide influence on history — mostly for the good." This isn't about whitewashing crimes that have been committed with guns, in Arizona or anywhere. This is about recognizing the "thousands of lives" that John Browning's invention, in the hands of police and soldiers, was "able to save."
"Utah considers Browning M1911 as official state gun"
So honor Browning, not the gun: It was "perfectly appropriate" for Utah lawmakers to mark John Moses Browning Day, as they did last year, says the Salt Lake Tribune in an editorial. It would also be fitting to recognize the American soldiers who have carried his M1911 handguns and other weapons into battle for 70 years. But honoring the weapons themselves comes "uncomfortably close to idolatry" — guns don't save lives, heroes do.
"People, not guns"