Utah Lawmakers Vote To Allow Execution By Firing Squad

03/10/2015 08:56 pm ET | Updated Mar 11, 2015

Utah's state Senate voted Tuesday to allow execution by firing squad in instances where lethal injection drugs are not available.

The bill, which passed by a vote of 18-10, would call for the use of a firing squad if lethal drugs could not be obtained at least 30 days in advance of a scheduled execution.

The state's House of Representatives passed the legislation last month. The measure now heads to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R), who has not said whether or not he will sign the bill into law.

The legislation would make Utah the first state to bring back the controversial execution method. Since the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, just three individuals have been executed by firing squad, all in Utah. Utah last executed an inmate by firing squad in 2010. (Utah made lethal injection its primary death penalty method in 2004, but inmates convicted before the new regulations still had the option of death by firing squad.)

States have faced a shortage of lethal injection drugs in recent years due to a 2011 export ban by the European Union. As drug supplies dwindle, prisons have scrambled to find alternatives.

Lawmakers got behind the idea of bringing back firing squads after Oklahoma botched the execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed and clenched his teeth after receiving a combination of lethal injection drugs. Lockett died 43 minutes after he was first administered the drugs. The bill's proponents have said a firing squad would be a more humane option, while opponents say the practice is gruesome and outdated.

The controversial drugs have prompted similar legislation in other states. Lawmakers in Oklahoma have proposed using nitrogen gas as a backup method, while legislators in Wyoming and Arkansas are also weighing firing squads.

CORRECTION: An earlier version incorrectly stated that Oklahoma had executed an inmate by firing squad since 1976.

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