The more members of the Utah Legislature argue for a bill to designate an official state firearm, the worse the idea sounds. Their single-action idol is supported by a double-standard mentality.
These accidently self-inflicted rhetorical wounds came as supporters of HB219 the other day made points that echo arguments others make in support of stricter gun regulations.
Sponsoring Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, waxed about the wonders of the specific weapon he wants to add to the list of Utah's official state somethings-or-other, the Browning M1911 pistol. "We're glorifying an implement of freedom that has defended America for 100 years," he said.
And Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, chimed in with, "Handguns in general do not kill people ... it's the person behind the trigger that kills people. We need to stop demonizing firearms in this country."
Now, let us field-strip and reassemble these arguments. Why give guns glory if they are to be exempt from blame?
The case for the individual interpretation of the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms has often been reduced to the bumper sticker-sized version of Sandstrom's argument: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."
Fair enough. But the sticker on the other bumper should say, "Guns don't defend freedom. People defend freedom."
Or, maybe, "Gun opponents don't demonize guns. People shooting members of Congress demonize guns."
It was perfectly appropriate for last year's Legislature to designate, and for Gov. Gary Herbert Monday to mark, John Moses Browning Day in Utah. Browning was the inventor of the much-loved M1911, as well as the creator of other firearms, from pistols to cannons, carried into battle by American soldiers over the course of 70 years. The Utahn's company remains a major employer and today markets military and hunting weapons, as well as outdoor clothing and gear.
So it is fitting to honor the man who invented those weapons, though less a priority than honoring the men who risked everything carrying them into battle. Even as guns are harmless without criminals, they are useless without heroes.
Honoring the weapons themselves, choosing to ignore all the damage they have also done, swings uncomfortably close to idolatry. It is a cargo-cult worship of things over people, which can only serve to give Utah, or at least its Legislature, an image of shooting first and asking questions, well, never.