There are two debate topics which have special heat among my European friends: the death penalty, and gun ownership. In general I have defended gun ownership, because I’m a western American who was taught proper gun handling, safety and ethics by a good and honorable mentor. I have owned revolvers and held a concealed carry permit. I have no issues with responsible gun ownership.
But I do have issues with political stupidity and tone-deafness. And this latest news out of Utah hits both of those lows:
State lawmakers are debating whether to designate a semiautomatic pistol as the official gun of Utah, despite protests from people who believe it’s inappropriate because of recent mass shootings.
The bill to make the Browning M1911 the official gun breezed through a committee hearing this week and is scheduled to be debated by the full House as early as Wednesday.
Republican Rep. Carl Wimmer said the state should have the gun as one of its state symbols to honor John Browning, a Utah native who invented it in 1911.
Now, it’s true that US states love to have various state symbols. My own home state has a state tree, flower, bird, fish, animal, insect, song, mushroom, rock, fossil and even a state snail (the Oregon hairy triton, if you’re curious). But we don’t have a state gun, nor should we. That’s stepping into a swamp that normal folks with an ounce of common sense would stay away from.
Rep. Wimmer says he’s been considering this idea for a year, and “there is nothing about the actions of a madman to change the fact that firearms have been used throughout our history to defend American values and traditions.”
Whenever anyone uses the term “American values” or its sister phrase, “family values,” my radar goes off. Those terms have been relentlessly flogged and abused in order to justify idiocy, self-aggrandizement, and too often, outright viciousness against other people in my country. Yes, handguns have been used throughout American history, but does Rep. Wimmer really want his state to be nationally known for a gun? If he’d like to test the political tone of his proposal, perhaps he should consider substituting a word. How does a vote for a state bullet sound?
Stupid? Exactly. And Rep. Wimmer, I’ll remember this the next time a politician protests that we can’t spend valuable legislative time considering such things as equal marriage rights when there are far more important issues at hand, like the economy. From now on my question will be, “Is that more or less important than deciding on a state gun?”
(Photo of a Browning M1911 courtesy of Wikipedia.)