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SALT LAKE CITY -- The NAACP is shocked that a Utah state lawmaker is suggesting that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a Utah gunmaker share a holiday.
Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, is sponsoring SB247. It would force the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to be shared with a state holiday recognizing the birthday of Ogden gunmaker John Browning.
King's birthday is celebrated on the third Monday in January. He was born Jan. 15, 1929, and assassinated in 1968. Browning's birthday is thought to be around Jan. 21. He died at age 71 in 1926.
The local president of the NAACP, Jeanetta Williams, says she's furious.
"Here you have a man, Dr.King, who was assassinated -- and then you're going to put his name along with a person who was a gun manufacturer?" she says. She points out that King was assassinated by a man using a gun. She called the move mean-spirited.
"The whole state of Utah would be looked at in a very bad way if something like this were to pass," Williams says. "We're hoping that maybe it goes away."
But some GOP lawmakers don't necessarily oppose the proposal. Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, says he doesn't mind the idea, and tells the Deseret News that guns are used to help keep peace.
Madsen says he wants an established holiday to recognize Browning, who held 128 gun patents, but he'll find another day if his proposal becomes a race issue.
Williams says she believes lawmakers are now looking at alternative dates.