SALT LAKE CITY — A 1911 Browning pistol is just one step away from joining the honeybee and sego lily as official Beehive State symbols — but that doesn't mean Utahns want it.
A Dan Jones/KSL poll conducted February 8-10 found that 57 percent of Utah residents oppose designating a state gun, while 37 percent favored it.
HB219, sponsored by Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, has received at least 50 percent of approval from every body that's considered it over the last three weeks the Legislature has been in session. Voting has mostly fallen along party lines, with many Republicans expressing strong support for the bill.
Political affiliation didn't translate as clearly among 496 Utahns Dan Jones & Associates surveyed. Of Republicans, 57 percent opposed the designation, 58 percent of independent voters were opposed and a whopping 72 percent of Democrats didn't support it.
The bill's sponsor in the Senate, Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, said in a news conference this week that he is "thrilled" about the designation.
"There's not another parallel where there's a firearm that’s so readily identified with a Utah citizen," Madsen said, referring to John M. Browning, the Utahn who designed the proposed state gun.
"I think it's a symbol of freedom and empowerment," Madsen said. He even said he wouldn't be opposed to designating two state firearms — a short and a long gun.
The House concurred Friday with a Senate amendment to the bill. The Senate altered the bill's wording to read Browning "designed" M1911 pistol after it realized Browning never actually manufactured that model.
The bill now awaits Gov. Gary Herbert's signature.
Before the House vote, Minority Assistant Whip Brian King, D-Salt Lake, read a letter from Browning's brother's great-grandson, Robert Pack Browning, opposing the bill.
"Today, in a world where random gun violence destroys so many young lives, shatters so many families, blasts the hopes of millions through the assassination and disabling of inspired leaders, it is stunning to learn that adults — let alone elected legislators — would seriously propose the glorification of firearms by designating an 'official state firearm,'" the letter read.
"However brilliantly designed, however effectively the Browning M1911 has performed its role, those thoughtful men who designed and built that and so many other fine guns, as tools to be respectfully deployed by hunters and soldiers in military operations, would be shocked."
The House consented to the amendment, 48-20.
Gov. Gary Herbert’s spokeswoman, Ally Isom, said the bill will be reviewed. But, she said, “the governor feels this effort is as much about honoring John Moses Browning, the Utah innovator and entrepreneur, as it is about a gun."
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