By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - Taking a page out of the old West history books, the Arizona Legislature early on Wednesday made the Colt revolver the state's official firearm.
In what resembled a Western shoot-out, the Arizona House narrowly approved a bill calling for the Colt Single Action Army Revolver to join the ranks of the bola tie, turquoise, the cactus wren and a handful of other items as official emblems of this desert Southwest state.
The proposal was shot down once in the early hours, but backers were able to muster enough support the second time to pass the measure by a 32 to 25 vote.
"Anytime you see a Western movie, the revolver in John Wayne's hand is a Colt single action," Senator Ron Gould, the bill's sponsor, told Reuters late Tuesday. "This is a historic firearm and it fits well with the story of Arizona."
Despite the Colt's fame, the proposed designation drew fire, with some critics questioning its timing.
Opponents charged Arizona has more important issues on its plate and is still coping with the January 8 mass shooting in Tucson that left six people dead and another 13 wounded. Among the wounded was U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
A Navajo Nation lawmaker said he had a major problem with the state glorifying a weapon used to kill his people and others.
"If you want to symbolize something and shove that something ... in their faces, this is what it is," said Albert Hale, an ex-Navajo president, at an earlier hearing on the bill. "The gun symbolized the extinction, the extermination of those Indians who were here."
The bill still must be acted upon by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to become law.
Users of the Colt, made popular in the late 1800s, read like a virtual "Who's Who" from the rough-and-tumble days of the American West.
Legendary names like Bat Masterson, Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok were Colt owners, according to "The Book of Colt Firearms", by R. L. Wilson.
Production first ran from 1872 through 1941 and then again from 1955, making it "unequalled in length by any other firearm whether handgun or longarm," Wilson wrote.
If signed into law, the bill would make Arizona the second state in the nation to have an official firearm. Last month, Utah designated the Browning model M1911 automatic pistol as its official gun.
(Editing by Jerry Norton)