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HB219 • The Utah Senate passed legislation Thursday that would make the Browning-designed M1911 — a sidearm carried by U.S. military since World War I — the state's official gun.

"This is a substantially historic firearm," said Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain. "As Utahns, we can claim a connection to its inventor and designer that no other state can claim."

In designating the gun, the Senate added a recognition that firearms in the wrong hands have been the source of violence and stating that the Legislature does not condone such acts.

The bill was amended in the Senate to clarify that John M. Browning designed the gun, but never actually manufactured the weapon. Instead he gave the design to the military, which during various wars had Colt, Remington and even International Harvester and Singer, the sewing machine maker, manufacture the weapon.

"Weapons or guns especially are so demonized by certain elements of our society that I think this adds a real balance," said Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan. "Weapons in the right hands have probably preserved freedom time and time and time again."

Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, said he viewed the bill as a recognition of the Browning family "who have generously given to our state over so many generations."

Democrats questioned why the state is recognizing the gun and argued it was wasting time.

"I don't think it does send the right message to other states," said Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, who noted that the Legislature already honored the Browning family earlier in the session. "The contributions of the individuals are important, but to designate a state firearm is not necessary."

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, argued that having a state gun might prompt students to go to the library and learn more about the weapon and the history of the Browning family.

The House still must sign off on the amended bill before it goes to the governor.

If the measure becomes law, the semiautomatic .45-caliber pistol would take its place alongside other notable Utah icons, such as the state's official fruit (the cherry), the official cooking pot (the Dutch oven) and the state folk dance (the square dance).