Let's be honest: the entire concept of "Official State Things" is kind of weird and arbitrary.
Don't get me wrong; it's great for bringing publicity to state exports and recognizing cultural contributions, so that's all good and well. Things like state tree and state bird are all pretty commonplace across the 50.
But then there are a handful of states that have Official Crustaceans, for example. And of the 28 states with an Official State Beverage, 21 of them chose milk. Vermont is the only state with an Official State Flavor (maple, obviously). And in Arkansas, the ripe vine tomato is both the Official State Fruit and Vegetable.
There are also U.S. states with Official State Firearms.
On February 24, 2016, Tennessee became the latest state to join this gun-happy tradition, following in the illustrious tradition established by Utah, Arizona, Indiana, West Virginia, Alaska, and Pennsylvania before them.
But there's something about Tennessee's Official State Gun doesn't quite fit in with the rest of them...
Let's take a look, and see if you can figure out the difference.
Utah was the first state to declare an Official Gun, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Browning M1911 pistol, which was originally designed by John Browning of Ogden, Utah — where the gun is still manufactured to this day.
100 years old? Local pride? Probably a little bit of economic stimulation? That's not so different than any other Official State Something.
Arizona joined the Official Gun party one month later in April 2011 with the Colt Single Action Army Revolver. Also known as the Colt .45 or "the gun that won the west," it was favored by frontier heroes like Bat Masterson, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Wild Bill Hickok — which also makes it kind of insensitive to the local Native American population.
But hey, it's been around since 1873 (even though it was invented in New England), so it gets a reluctant pass.
Indiana followed one year later in March 2012 with the Grouseland rifle, which dates back to sometime between 1803 and 1812. This gun was invented by John Small, who was the first sheriff of Knox County, Indiana, as well as the designer the official Indiana state seal. Also, there are only six known Grouseland rifles still in existence. (That means no photos, sorry!)
4. West Virginia
The Hall Model 1819 flintlock rifle was named the Official Gun of West Virginia in April 2013. Again, it was invented in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, and had nearly 200 years of pedigree and a lengthy stint in the U.S. Army before it earned Official State Gun status.
Pennsylvania made the Pennsylvania long rifle their Official Gun in June 2014, even though it's also known as the Kentucky long rifle, which is a tad confusing. This muzzleloading gun was invented in the 1700s, and was pretty much the first new gun developed in colonial America, which means that when the Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment, this is probably the gun they were thinking of.
Alaska named the pre-1964 Winchester Model 70 bolt-action sporting rifle as its Official State Gun in July 2014, to commemorate its role in helping Americans "establish a firm foothold" in the Alaskan frontier. Not quite as historic as some of the other Official State Guns on this last, but I'm willing to give it a pass because it's Alaska. (and also because the leftover scrap pieces from the Winchester factory were an integral part of my own childhood, which I swear is less concerning than it sounds.)
7. And then there's Tennessee...which designated this monstrosity as its Official State Firearm.
The Barrett M82 is a .50 caliber semiautomatic sniper rifle that weighs about 30 pounds and can accurately deliver a bullet to a target more than a mile away. (although its maximum effective range is more like four miles. FOUR. MILES.)
It was invented by Tennessee resident (and NRA board member) Ronnie Barrett way way back in 1984, which I guess gives it some state-level relevance but are you serious with that thing?!
There is literally no reason for a citizen to own a five-and-a-half-foot-long armor-piercing deathcannon like the Barrett M82 that can shoot a golfball-sized bullet through a tank from 50 football fields away.
No reason at all.
Are you really gonna pretend you need that thing to hunt a beaver or a bullfrog? Yeah OK.
That a weapon like this could not only be legal, but also celebrated by elected officials, speaks volumes about our nation's gun problem.
The Barrett M82 been used in an average of two major U.S. crimes each year for the past 25 years — and yet remains completely unregulated at the federal level. (although there are some states where it is banned under other existing laws, such as barrel length.)
So while 85% of the country already supports a ban on civilian sales of the Barrett M82, Tennessee just gave it a big publicity boost with its Official State Gunhood.
I realize that gun enthusiasts and gun control advocates often end up speaking past each other, using different words for the same thing and furthering frustrations on both sides. So while the invention of the Barrett M82 might sound like a victory for the 2nd Amendment, I hope we can all agree that Tennessee's announcement is a massive defeat for common sense.