PHOENIX - Saying the gun's role in killing Indians is not the issue, the state House voted Tuesday to declare the Colt single action Army revolver as the official state firearm.
The vote came over the strong objections of Rep. Albert Hale, R-Window Rock, who said providing such official state recognition amounts to "telling our children we're going to honor and celebrate an instrument of destruction.'' He said that a gun, by its nature, is designed to fire a projectile which is designed to kill something.
And Hale, who is Navajo, said his people were all too often on the wrong end of that weapon.
"Does that mean we honor and celebrate the killing of my relatives?"
Tuesday's vote also came after the Republican majority rejected the suggestion by Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, that if legislators are intent on going ahead, they should at least actually honor something made by a company with a presence in Arizona. But his colleagues rejected two separate proposals, one to instead give the honor to the SR9, made by Ruger which has a plant in Prescott, and the other to declare the stun gun made by Scottsdale-based Taser to be the official state weapon.
It was Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who came to the defense of the original legislation.
He rejected the idea that the weapon itself can be blamed for any deaths, whether justified or not.
"It's the person who is wielding those who cause the destruction,'' Farnsworth said. "And they make that choice.
Farnsworth did not specifically address Hale's comments about the role of the gun in killing Native Americans. Instead, he said lawmakers should instead consider how the gun has helped law-abiding citizens protect themselves from criminals.
"This particular weapon played a tremendous role in defending families that were trying to do what was right," Farnsworth said.
"It played a tremedous role in trying to bring peace to Western towns," he continued. "It played a tremendous role in trying to make sure that those who were trying to be law-abiding were not taken advantage (of) or destroyed by those who would destroy them, whether it was by gun or some other mechanism."
The debate about selecting an alternative weapon was a bit less intense.
Farnsworth said he would be more inclined to support Gallego's proposal to instead give the honor to the Taser "if he'd come in and let Taser do a demonstration on him here on the floor so we could really see the effectiveness of it."
Gallego, a former Marine, responded he has been "Tased" as part of training. But he told Farnsworth he is willing to undergo that again "as long as we make it a bipartisan effort and one of the Republicans on the other end also gets Tased with me."
"But I get to choose," he quipped.
Gallego's alternate suggestion to give the official designation to the Ruger SR9 drew derision from Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction.
"No self-respecting cowboy would ever carry a Ruger SR9," he said.
"I am a really respectful cowboy in my own mind and neighborhood," Gallego responded.