Utah designates Browning M1911 official state firearm

A Colt M1911, from the collection of Charles W Clawson The 1911 was one of the most widely-produced pistol designs of the 20th Century

Utah has become the first US state to designate an official state firearm.

The Browning M1911 joins the state fossil (allosaurus), fruit (cherry), gem (topaz), bird (sea gull) and other symbols with official designation.

The gun was designed by Utah native John Browning. The law's sponsor said it symbolised freedom and empowerment.

Opponents said it was inappropriate to glorify a firearm, citing the January mass shooting at a congresswoman's constituent event in nearby Arizona.

The .45-calibre semi-automatic pistol was designed by Browning, who was born in Utah in 1855, to fill 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, according to the Browning Arms Company. It was later used in World War I and beyond.

Democratic Utah State Representative Brian King opposed the bill.

"When we are talking about a state symbol we would do well to come up with one that is more unifying than divisive and this is a very divisive symbol for obvious reasons," he told Reuters. "This is just a poor choice for a state symbol."

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