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Originally published Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 3:38 PM

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Montana lawmakers reject Winchester as state rifle

Montana lawmakers have rejected a proposal to name the Winchester Model 1873 the state rifle after Native American legislators said they couldn't honor a weapon that "devastated" their ancestors.

Associated Press

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HELENA, Mont. —

Montana lawmakers have rejected a proposal to name the Winchester Model 1873 the state rifle after Native American legislators said they couldn't honor a weapon that "devastated" their ancestors.

Supporters say the designation would memorialize an important symbol from the frontier era that led to statehood for Montana. They tried to mollify opponents by striking language from the bill that called the Winchester the "gun that won the West."

But American Indian lawmakers say the rifle carries bad memories. They argued guns like the Winchester helped slaughter bison relied upon for food and was involved in Indian massacres.

State Rep. Carolyn Pease-Lopez says she can't celebrate a rifle that "brought devastation to my people."

The measure was defeated Tuesday 61-39 in the state House.

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