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HB219 • A bill proposing to designate a semi-automatic pistol as the state's official firearm remains on target, gaining approval of a Senate committee Monday afternoon.

Rep. Carl Wimmer's bid to honor John Browning's invention of the M1911 semiautomatic pistol with the designation as an official state symbol has turned the debate national in wake of the January mass shooting in Tucson that claimed six lives.

Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Holladay, appeared to irk Wimmer with a line of questioning that repeatedly asked what the purpose of the handgun was. Wimmer answered by saying it could be used in defense of freedom, self-defense, a collectors item or "a paperweight." But as Jones repeatedly asked the same question, Wimmer finally shot back.

"If you'd like to ask me if it can be used to murder people," Wimmer said, "I'd like you to ask me that directly."

The bill, HB219, was attacked in public testimony prior to the committee's 4-2 vote in favor of sending it to the Senate floor for debate.

Steve Gunn of the Gun Violence Prevention Center said Wimmer's proposal was "in bad taste" and that no amount of dancing around the subject changes the intent of Browning's invention.

"The reason for its existence is to kill human beings," Gunn said. "That is the purpose of all handguns."

It now moves to the Senate floor for debate.