SALT LAKE CITY -- An Apache helicopter brought legislators to their windows at the Capitol Monday morning as it landed on the front lawn.
It was flown in as part of the John M. Browning Day Celebration, held the day after Browning's birthday. Browning would have been 156 years old on Sunday.
Handguns, rifles, machine guns and other firearms were on display in the Capitol's rotunda on Monday.
"We are saluting the world's greatest firearm inventor who was also a Utah native," said Scott Engen, an editor and writer employed by Browning, which is based in Mountain Green.
Engen said he understands that there may be a few people coming to the first day of the Utah Legislature 59th Session and be surprised to see firearms on display, especially after the Tucson, Ariz., shooting two weeks ago, where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, R-Arizona, was shot in the head at a meet and greet event. Six others were killed and 13 more were wounded.
"Firearm issues are usually emotional rather than based on reason," Engen said.
Also as a part of the John M. Browning Day, legislators and other state elected officials have the opportunity to buy a commemorative M1911A-.45 caliber handgun, which was one of the military sidearms used from World War I through the early Gulf conflicts, said Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield.
Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, is sponsoring House Bill 219, which would make the handgun, Utah's official state firearm.
Other guns on display included an 1894 lever action that is still made by Winchester, which is owned by Browning. Also, X-bolt and A-bolt rifles were on display, as well as Browning's first machine gun, which was used from WWI through the Korean conflict.
An official celebration is set for noon Monday, with Gov. Gary Herbert speaking along with Christopher Browning, a great-grandson of John M. Browning and Air Force Col. Scott Zobrist, Commander of the 388th Fighter Wing at the base.
Clearfield High School's ROTC Air Force performed the color guard duties.