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What Does This Official Symbol Say About Utah?

Date: Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 9:40 pm  By: Tonyaa Weathersbee, –


Looks like Utah didn’t get the memo.

It’s been more than two months since Jared Loughner, an Army reject whose mind was addled by a mess of incoherencies, picked up a gun and unloaded his angst into a crowd in Tuscon, Ariz. The shooting left a 9-year-old girl, a federal judge and four others dead. It also left U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others wounded.

You’d think that since someone as unstable as Loughner was able to walk into a store and buy a gun, now would be the time to downplay firearms, not exalt them.

You’d think that now would be the time to put common sense over ideology and sloganeering; to understand that protecting the right to bear arms shouldn’t come at the expense of not protecting the rights of innocent people to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without having to look over their shoulder to see if a madman might be about to shoot them in the head.

President Barack Obama apparently thought the same thing.

In a recent op-ed piece in The Arizona Daily Star, he called for reasonable background checks and other measures to prevent guns from landing in the hands of lunatics and criminals.

So what does Utah go and do?

It blows off the tragedy that just occurred in its neighboring state. It blows off Obama. And it goes and makes a gun one of its state symbols.

That’s right.

In Utah, the M1911 semi-automatic pistol now represents that state in the same way that the official tree, the blue spruce, and the official insect, the honeybee, does. But there’s one big difference: Trees and honeybees help perpetuate life, while pistols are instruments of death.

A pistol, in fact, generally isn’t used to shoot game to feed people. It’s used to shoot humans.

Of course, lawmakers there don’t see it that way. One of them, GOP state Rep. Carl Wimmer, a former SWAT team commander, told CNN that he viewed the pistol as an implement of freedom, not an instrument of death.

But he’s wrong – because what buoys freedom and liberty anywhere is the strength of the ideas behind it. Killing people to defend those ideas only comes as a last resort, and in the end, people ought to be celebrating the triumph of the ideas, not a tool that glorifies death.

But then again, this pattern of nuttiness – especially from red state lawmakers and tea partiers – has been growing since the nation’s first black president was elected.

After November 2008, gun dealers reported record sales. Many said customers believed that Obama was going to take away their gun rights, so they wanted to stock up.

That would make sense if Obama had talked incessantly about imposing new gun control measures. But he hadn’t.

All of which tells me that this obsession with firearms has never been about people protecting themselves against the possibility of having their guns snatched away, but to fend off, at least symbolically, a browner and blacker future that will take this nation further from the idealized, frontier past that so many Tea Party types long to go back to.

Witness how Sharron Angle, the Nevada GOP Senate hopeful who Harry Reid trounced during last November’s midterm elections on the strength of the Latino vote, openly talked about “Second Amendment remedies,” to counteract Obama’s policies.

And think about how, just the other day, Kansas state Rep. Virgil Peck joked about from helicopters in the same way that they shoot down feral pigs.

They’ve lost their minds.

It’s sad that Utah lawmakers, especially in the aftermath of the Jan. 8 carnage in its neighboring state, aren’t embarrassed by glorifying a gun as its state symbol at a time when guns need to be downplayed.

But what’s also sad is that if tea partiers and GOPers continue to obsess over and exalt guns, pretty soon Americans won’t be able to brag about being the land of the free and the home of the brave.

That’s because it’ll be the land of the irrational and the home of the insecure.

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