Herbert maintains the designation is not actually about the gun itself, but about honoring Utah's history, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
"It's about honoring John Moses Browning and paying tribute to the man as an innovator and entrepreneur and someone who has given a lot to the state of Utah," Herbert spokesperson Ally Isom told the Tribune.
Utah-born John Moses Browning designed the pistol, which state Rep. Carl Wimmer (R) says has been used in every war since WWI. (Wimmer was the bill's chief sponsor.)
Before approving the bill, the Utah State Senate added language to acknowledge that the Legislature does not condone acts of violence.
But Democratic lawmakers remain unconvinced that Utah needs a state gun.
State Rep. Brian King (D), for instance, called the designation a "poor choice," adding that firearms are too divisive to be state symbols.
As TPM has reported, Similar legislation is being considered in Arizona. The M1911 joins the ranks of Utah's other state-designated items: its state rock is coal, its state emblem is the beehive and its state cooking pot is the Dutch oven.
Wimmer did not immediately respond to TPM's requests for comments.