Utah has become the first US State to designate an official firearm. The Browning M1911 has taken its place alongside such other honoured emblems as the Allosaurus, cherry, topaz, sea gull, honeybee, and Sego lily.
The M1911 is a single-action, semi-automatic, magazine-fed, and recoil-operated handgun chambered for the .45 cartridge. It was designed by John Browning, who was born in Utah in 1855, to meet the US military’s need for a pistol with stopping power – the ability to fell an enemy with a single shot. It was adopted by the US Army in 1911 and first saw action in combat with Mexican rebel leader Pancho Villa in 1916. It has been regularly modified.
According to Wikipedia, “It is extremely popular among the general public in the United States for practical and recreational purposes. The pistol is commonly used for ‘concealed carry’ thanks in part to a single-stack magazine (which makes for a thinner pistol that is easier to conceal), personal defence, target shooting, and competition. Numerous aftermarket accessories allow users to customize the pistol to their liking. There are a growing number of manufacturers of M1911-type pistols and the model continues to be quite popular for its reliability, simplicity, and patriotic appeal.”
In this heavily Republican State, the law’s politically controversial sponsor, Carl Wimmer, is on record as saying that the gun symbolises freedom and empowerment. In the past Representative Wimmer has also taken an aggressively conservative stance on abortion. In 2009 he supported a bill requiring doctors to inform women that their foetuses could feel pain during an abortion. In 2011 he supported legislation preventing hospitals and abortion clinics from firing doctors who refuse to perform the procedure for personal or religious reasons, unless the woman’s life is at risk.
In Utah capital punishment is legal, although aggravated murder is the only crime subject to the death penalty. As of June 20, 2010, nine people were under sentence of death for which the current method is lethal injection. Utah was the first State to resume executions after capital punishment was reinstated in the US in 1976, since when seven individuals convicted of murder have been put to death.
A majority of the State’s residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons make up about 34%–41% of Salt Lake City, while rural areas tend to be overwhelmingly Mormon. Though the LDS Church officially maintains a policy of neutrality in regard to political parties, the church’s doctrine has a strong regional influence on politics. About 80% of Utah’s Legislature are members of the LDS Church and since becoming a State in 1896, Utah has had only two non-Mormon governors.
It’s likely that not everyone in Utah agrees with a decision that has tarnished its public image. But, given the opportunity to reject this absurd piece of legislation, a majority still chose the sword over the ploughshare. Carl Wimmer may never have been to the United Nations in New York. If he had, he would have seen Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reutersward’s anti-gun statue intended as a symbol of peace and as a tribute to John Lennon. It might have given him pasue for thought. Then, again, Wimmer would probably have thought it ludicrous.
So, let’s be upstanding and hear it for a State whose religious beliefs allow it to disregard the Fifth Commandment and whose faith in guns is such that it now has one as a public symbol. Presumably it’s for defending its dinosaurs, bees, cherry trees, topazes, and sea gulls. Or just maybe it’s for keeping those damned Democrats and other Sinners in their rightful place.