This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah lawmakers continue to struggle to find just the right way to honor the late firearms inventor John Moses Browning. Unfortunately, their latest idea, naming the Browning model 1911 pistol the state gun, is another miss.
Earlier this year, one senator wanted to attach Browning's name to an existing holiday, perhaps Memorial Day, Veterans Day or Pioneer Day. That plan didn't gain much support, thank goodness, so, now, a different lawmaker is back with a different idea. Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, wants to declare the Browning model 1911 .45-caliber pistol the state gun.
As far as we can tell, no other state has a state gun, so that would make Utah the first. But that isn't the kind of notoriety the state needs. Like all places, Utah has its peculiarities. This surely would be another.
Naming a state gun is problematic because a gun is, after all, a killing tool. It's not like honoring the state flower, state bird, or even the state dinosaur, which happens to be a rather nasty carnivore. A gun necessarily carries the connotation of violent death, not the sort of thing Utah would want to appear to celebrate.
While the naming of the state gun would eventually lapse into obscurity, as most official state symbols do, it would give Utah an awkward 15 minutes of, "Say, what?" "A state gun?"
We don't question that Browning is worthy of commemoration. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest firearms inventors in U.S. history, perhaps the greatest in history, period. That he contributed significantly to the U.S. victories in World War I and World War II is settled history.
The model 1911 .45 semiautomatic pistol was the standard U.S. sidearm for decades. His Browning Automatic Rifle and machine guns were critical to American fighting efforts.
Browning was a native Utahn, born in Ogden in 1855 of pioneer stock. At his death in 1926, his accomplishments were widely recognized. One reason to name the model 1911 pistol the state gun now is that it would coincide with the centennial of its invention (hence its name).
But instead of naming a state gun, why not honor Browning with a statue at the State Capitol?
Utah already has an outstanding, though modest, state museum devoted to Browning and his firearms at Union Station in Ogden. If you're interested in firearms and haven't seen it, you should check it out. It's wonderful.
Still, naming a state gun would be a public relations misfire.