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For the fifth anniversary of the commemorative legislative firearm, lawmakers decided to go bigger and flashier.

This year, lawmakers are lining up to order a special edition AR-15, manufactured by Tegra Arms in Orem, a semi-automatic rifle similar to the M16 used by the military.

"My wife was scared of it when she first saw it," said Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, who has bought the commemorative guns in the past and has ordered the AR-15 this year.

"It's a big departure. I don't know if I'll ever shoot it. I'm not really an avid hunter anymore," he said. For him, it's more a momento of his involvement in the legislative process.

The carbon fiber weapon is surprisingly lightweight, covered in a white Cerakote finish with a gray beehive pattern. The state motto, "Industry," is emblazoned on the side with a beehive. On the stock is etched a honeybee, the state insect, and the phrase "Vox Populi," the Latin phrase for "Voice of the People," which is the motto of the Utah House.

Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, a lieutenant in the Utah Highway Patrol, said he's glad they chose a rifle for the commemorative weapon this year.

"I'm not a big handgun fan but I love rifles," he said. "This AR is the most beautiful gun ever."

The AR-15 fires a bullet that is about a quarter-inch in diameter and travels about 3,000 feet per second. It's typically used for target shooting, hunting small to mid-size animals and for home defense.

It typically is fired with a 30-round magazine, although bigger and smaller magazines are available. Custom sights, stocks and other add-ons essentially just clip on.

Legislators are paying $650 for the rifle, although add-on packages run as much as $1,550. A limited series of 250 are available to the public for $750, $100 of which will go to the Gun Safety Alliance for children's gun safety education.

Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, said he's already had numerous orders for the limited-edition firearms. Next year, he said, lawmakers are considering ordering a Browning shotgun.

The AR-15 is popular among gun enthusiasts but has been vilified by gun control advocates.

It was used in 2012 to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn. The families of the victims sued Bushmaster, maker of the particular AR-15, in December, alleging it was a "lightweight but fearsome combat weapon" that should not have been sold to the public.

Bushmaster paid $2.5 million to victims and families of victims of the Washington, D.C.-area snipers, who used the AR-15 in the 2002 shooting spree.

In previous years, lawmakers have stuck to handguns for their session firearm.

In 2011, it was a semi-automatic Glock 19, a 9 mm handgun. The next year it was a Cobra 380 pistol. Two years ago, they ordered the Browning 1911, which was designated as the state's official firearm, with a legislative logo on the handle. Last year it was a North American Arms .22-caliber revolver.

"If the bulk of my legislators carry an AR-15, you can bet we're going to get pretty darn good gun laws," said Jeremy Roberts, who is coordinating the firearm for the session.