Utah House Votes To Bring Back Executions By Firing Squad

The Utah House of Representatives narrowly voted Friday to approve a bill that would bring back firing squads as a method of capital punishment in the Beehive State, USA Today is reporting.

The bill faces an uncertain future in the Utah Senate, and Utah’s governor, Republican Gary Herbert, has not said publicly whether or not he will sign it.

The bill’s sponsor, republican Representative Paul Ray, says that the firing squad option is necessary, especially as lethal injection — the preferred method of execution in most states that practice capital punishment — is coming under scrutiny.

“It is never easy to talk about taking another life, but in our judicial system we have a means that requires that sometimes. We have to have an option. If we go hanging, if we go to the guillotine, or we go to the firing squad, electric chair, you’re still going to have the same circus atmosphere behind it. So is it really going to matter?”

The use of lethal injection as an execution method has faced criticism in the wake of botched executions in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Ohio. One particularly gruesome example of the problems with lethal injection is that of Oklahoma murderer Clayton Lockett, who gasped, writhed in agony, and groaned for 43 minutes before being declared dead of a heart attack.

Pharmaceutical companies are refusing to provide the drugs necessary for lethal injections, leading to shortages.

The proposed Utah bill would still keep lethal injection as the preferred method of execution in the state, but would allow for firing squad if lethal injection drugs aren’t available, or if the Supreme Court eventually rules lethal injection unconstitutional.

Ray admits that the subject is ghastly, but he argues that a bullet fired by a trained marksman is a faster and more humane death than a drawn-out death by lethal injection, according to Fox News.

Critics argue that the firing squad is a barbaric relic of Utah’s Old West past and that it would stigmatize the state and subject it to criticism. Such criticism, says Fox News, is why Utah abandoned the firing squad in 2004 (although some men have been executed by firing squad in Utah since then, since they chose to be killed by firing squad before the option was removed). Further, as USA Today notes, the only other nations that practice capital punishment by firing squad are Indonesia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates.

The last person to be executed by firing squad in Utah was murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010.

[Image courtesy of Getty Images/Hulton Archive]