NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WKRN) – While Tennessee lawmakers last year balked at making the Holy Bible the official state book, they have shown little hesitance this year to designate an official state rifle.
The Rutherford County-made .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle now takes its place alongside state symbols like the tomato as Tennessee’s official fruit, the cave salamander as the state amphibian and the square dance as the state folk dance.
Democratic Sen. Jeff Yarbro of Nashville cast the lone vote against the resolution on Wednesday, arguing the state shouldn’t make a state endorsement of a private company.
He said lawmakers wouldn’t want to choose between other Tennessee-made products like Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel as the official whiskey, or Goo Goo Clusters and MoonPies as the state dessert.
The House voted 74-9 to pass the resolution.
“It’s one thing to be acknowledged individually for an achievement you’ve made, but when you can be a part of something that brings pride to your home, your state, and your country, it’s an entirely different thing,” Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Inc. president Chris Barrett.
Barrett is the son of rifle pioneer Ronnie Barrett. The elder Barrett was out of town but word traveled quickly.
“Immediately after this starting all the news outlets, he’s just as excited as can be; we couldn’t get off the phone for quite a while,” Chris Barrett said.
The first prototype of the Barrett rifle is still on display at the Christiana plant.
It has come a long way from its humble beginnings some 35 years ago when it was conceived in the garage of Ronnie Barrett.
“We know this was introduced by a Marine, and we have a special connection to the Marine Corp., so this is a wonderful feeling,” Chris Barrett said.
The rifle is still used today by the U.S. military.
“We are very honored when we hear accounts of our rifles being used on the frontline, saving lives, and how important it is to Soldiers and Marines,” the company president said.
Now the state of Tennessee calls it, its own.
News 2 also spoke with the bill’s sponsor, Representative Micah Van Huss, about why it’s important.
“The reason I brought the bill is to honor Tennessee ingenuity and Tennessee manufacturing as well my platoon carried this weapon in Iraq so it was a logical step for me when I came here,” Huss said.
Only one state senator voted against the resolution saying the state shouldn’t endorse private companies.