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Utah politicians vote to bring back firing squads

However, it has yet to be signed into law.

Image: rifle via Shutterstock

Updated 2.20pm

LAWMAKERS IN THE United States have passed a bill that would make Utah the only state to allow firing squads for carrying out a death penalty if there is a shortage of execution drugs.

The passage of the bill by the state Senate yesterday comes as states struggle to obtain lethal injection drugs amid a nationwide shortage.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Paul Ray of Clearfield, touted the measure as being a more humane form of execution. Ray argued that a team of trained marksmen is faster and more humane than the drawn-out deaths that have occurred in botched lethal injections.

The bill gives Utah options, he told Associated Press:

We would love to get the lethal injection worked out so we can continue with that but if not, now we have a backup plan.

Opponents, however, said firing squads are a cruel holdover from the state’s wild West days and will earn the state international condemnation. “I think Utah took a giant step backward,” said Ralph Dellapiana, director of Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. He called firing squads “a relic of a more barbaric past.”

Utah is one of several states to seek out new forms of capital punishment after a botched Oklahoma lethal injection last year and one in Arizona that took nearly two hours for the condemned man to die. Legislation to allow firing squads has been introduced in Arkansas this year. In Wyoming, a measure to allow firing squads if the lethal drugs aren’t available died. In Oklahoma, lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow the state to use nitrogen gas to execute inmates.

Firing Squad File photo shows the firing squad execution chamber at the Utah State Prison. Source: AP

Whether Ray’s proposal will become law in Utah, a conservative state, is unclear: Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, won’t say if he’ll sign the measure. His spokesman, Marty Carpenter, did issue a statement this week acknowledging that the method would give Utah a legitimate backup method if execution drugs are unavailable.

Utah American Civil Liberties Union representative Anna Brower said the organization is still holding out hope that Herbert will not sign the bill. The legislation would make Utah “look backwards and backwoods,” she said.

The measure narrowly passed the House in February, where additional lawmakers had to be called in to break a tie vote. But it made it through the Senate on an 18-10 vote with no debate on Tuesday. Four Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the bill.

Originally published 7.46am

Read: Australia makes last-ditch effort to save two drug-smugglers from firing squad >

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Associated Press

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