SALT LAKE CITY — A bill naming the Browning-designed M1911 pistol as the state firearm passed the Utah Senate on Thursday, but not without a few partisan shots across the aisle.
Senators made a slight change to HB219 before approving it 20-7, with Democrats casting the dissenting votes. Turns out Ogden native John M. Browning never manufactured an M1911, so the measure was amended to say he designed the gun. The amended bill now goes back to the House.
"This is a substantial historic firearm," said Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi. "As Utah, we can claim a connection to its designer and creator that no other state can claim."
Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, rose in opposition.
"I would be amiss if I didn't stand today to thank the good senator from Utah Lake for answering my rhetorical questions yesterday with such rhetoric," he said.
"How is Utah Lake?" Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, interjected.
"Soggy, but we're doing fine, thanks," Madsen said.
Davis initiated the exchange on Wednesday when he sarcastically said why not just emblazon the state flag with a gun or arm the bees on the flag.
Madsen replied Thursday that rhetorical questions are asked "when you really don't want to know the answers." He then listed several states with guns on their flags.
"I think it's perfectly consistent to recognize the role of firearms whether it be by a designation or arming the bees with a firearm," he said.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley, said naming a state gun might not be necessary but it's interesting. Schoolchildren wondering why there's a state gun might do some research into Browning's life, he said.
"I think it does set us apart as an interesting and unique place," he said. "In the interest of education, I vote aye."