SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Utah’s governor signed a bill Monday that brings back firing squads as a potential way to execute some death row prisoners.
Lethal injection remains the primary method for carrying out executions in the state, Gov. Gary R. Herbert said in a statement. A firing squad would only be used in the event the necessary drugs cannot be obtained.
Drug inventories dwindled after European manufacturers opposed to capital punishment refused to sell the lethal concoctions.
“Those who voiced opposition to this bill are primarily arguing against capital punishment in general and that decision has already been made in our state,” said Marty Carpenter, a spokesman for Herbert.
“We regret anyone ever commits the heinous crime of aggravated murder to merit the death penalty and we prefer to use our primary method of lethal injection when such a sentence is issued. However, when a jury makes the decision and a judge signs a death warrant, enforcing that lawful decision is the obligation of the executive branch,” he said.
Utah banned death by firing squad in 2004, though inmates who chose that option before the law changed still ended up being shot to death.
The last execution by firing squad was in 2010, and it was also the most recent execution in Utah.
A Utah firing squad also executed Gary Gilmore in 1977, the first death by capital punishment after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty the prior year.
Civil rights groups have said use of firing squads makes Utah “look backward and backwoods”.