Illustration by Phil Jackson

The sun sets as two men, nothing more than outlines, sit high on their horses, riding off towards the horizon. Their day on the untamed plains has left them weary, almost broken men. They look for a place to camp, some bastion of moderate peace in this savage land. They find no such place, and once again, sleep uncomfortably under the stars, wishing for a warm meal, and a bed to call their own. Their pistols, the only thing separating them from the hereafter in this violent stretch of the desert, lay within arm’s reach.

The Wild West was a time of lawlessness, gunfights, and death hovering above every head. But this is 2011. There is no more Wild West and guns, while still useful in certain situations, are no longer a tool used daily. However, that’s not stopping our lawmakers from spending an afternoon or two singing the praises of the Browning M1911, our favorite single-action, semi-automatic, magazine-fed weapon!

Recently the Utah state House of Representatives passed a bill that would make the Browning M1911 our official state handgun. This bill was introduced, and passed in the House fairly quickly, cutting in line ahead of issues such as reducing the state budget, bettering education, and even fixing a 90-year-old error in the state flag, also on the docket for the legislation session this year.

Representative Carl Wimmer is the sponsor of the bill. This is the same representative who believes that Utahans should be able to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, and who is, not surprisingly, endorsed by the National Rifle Association.

Gov. Herbert, who spoke on Browning Day, Jan. 24th of this year, praised John Browning who designed the honored firearm in 1911, citing his “efforts to preserve the Constitution,” while presenting Browning’s great-grandson with a proclamation honoring the man. In return, Herbert received  an engraved M1911.

Born in 1855 in Ogden, Utah, Browning is most known for the weapons he designed. He was instrumental in the design of reliable semi-automatic and automatic firing actions. His most successful weapons  are the 1911, the Browning Automatic Rifle, and the M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun. Many of these weapons were used by the U.S. Military throughout many conflicts, from World War I to the Korean War.  The 1911 was the standard issue sidearm of the U.S. Military from 1911 to 1985. It is still in service today in some branches of the armed forces.

The sentiment behind this bill is understandable. It’s a way to honor a man who developed a tool that has saved countless American lives. It’s cheap and it’s easy, two qualities that the American people adore.

However, Utah does not need to honor a weapon, a tool designed only for killing, as a state symbol. Browning Day should be enough state recognition for his efforts. Guns don’t kill people, but they make it a hell of a lot easier to get the job done, and with notable gun violence occurring one state to the south of us, and even in our own state, now is not the time. This bill is a giant middle finger to those who have suffered due to unnecessary gun violence, and to people who are fighting for stricter gun policies.

This isn’t the Wild West. This is a more civilized time. Embrace it, don’t look to the past for inspiration for the future. Guns have protected this country, but placing them on a pedestal sends a perverse message, honoring the gun itself rather than what it may represent. We should commemorate Browning though a memorial of those the M1911 have protected. We should honor the positive effect of his weapon, rather than the weapon itself.

Or maybe the Utah State Government will hand out M1911s to all the hard-working, taxpaying citizens of Our Lovely Deseret. The bill still requires a vote in the state Senate, and so far no date has been scheduled to discuss it. It did, however, pass in a committee and will be presented to the entire Senate soon.  Keep your fingers crossed, marksmen. Ever vigilant.