SALT LAKE CITY -- The commander of the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base thanked the Browning Arms Corp. for its contributions to freedom and for helping make childhood memories.
"From kids everywhere who have spent time with their dads or parents, we thank you," said Air Force Lt. Col. Scott J. Zobrist.
Zobrist said his fondest memories of childhood include hunting with his dad, who took a Browning shotgun with him everywhere. Zobrist also complimented the Browning company for its contributions in firearms that have kept the U.S. military safe across the world.
Zobrist was among several dignitaries who participated in the John M. Browning Day Celebration, held at noon Monday on the front steps of the Capitol.
The Utah National Guard flew in an Apache helicopter early Monday morning, drawing legislators to their windows at the Capitol. Clearfield High School's ROTC Air Force performed the color guard duties.
The celebration was held the day after Browning's birthday, and Gov. Gary Herbert signed a proclamation making it official. Browning would have been 156 years old on Sunday.
Browning-designed handguns, rifles, machine guns and other firearms were on display in the Capitol's rotunda Monday.
Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, is sponsoring House Bill 219, which would make the M1911 handgun Utah's official state firearm.
Wimmer said, "Some people don't like this bill because they say it's glorifying a symbol of death. We are glorifying a symbol of freedom."
The 1911 handgun, which John M. Browning designed in a year, was used by the military from World War I through the Gulf conflicts.
Christopher Browning said his great-grandfather claims he received one drop of genius and used up a barrel of sweat to design the handgun for his country.
Browning said growing up in Utah and shooting guns in the canyons of Morgan was a paradise for him and his five brothers.
The firearms on display in the Capitol's rotunda came from the John M. Browning Museum at Ogden's Union Station.
Those on display included an 1894 lever-action that is still made by Winchester, which is owned by Browning. Also on display were X-bolt and A-bolt rifles.
"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 Armory Corp., based in Mountain Green.
Engen said he understands there might have been a few people at the first day of Utah's 59th Legislature who are surprised to see firearms on display, especially after the Tucson, Ariz., shooting two weeks ago, when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, R-Arizona, was shot in the head. Six others were killed and 13 more were wounded at the public event.
"Firearm issues are usually emotional rather than based on reason," Engen said.
Also, as part of John M. Browning Day, legislators and other elected state officials have the opportunity to buy a commemorative M1911A .22-caliber handgun, said Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield.