POLITICS
03/23/2015 08:12 pm ET Updated Mar 24, 2015

Utah Governor Signs Law Reinstating Firing Squad As Backup Execution Method

Firing squads are a legal execution method once again in Utah.

A law signed Monday by Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) establishes firing squads as a secondary execution method in the event the Department of Corrections can't obtain drugs for lethal injection.

Lethal injection remains the primary execution method for Utah and the 31 other U.S. states that allow the death penalty as a punishment for certain murders.

“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,” Marty Carpenter, spokesman for Herbert, said in an emailed statement. “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.”

The bill easily passed both chambers of the state legislature. Herbert deliberated for about a week before he signed it.

"It's not our preference, but we need to have a fallback," Herbert said during a news conference last week, according to NBC News.

Utah was the last state to execute an inmate by firing squad. On Friday, the governor's staff met with Randy Gardner, whose brother, Ronnie Lee Gardner, was the last Utah inmate executed by firing squad in 2010, The Associated Press reported. Randy Gardner reportedly told the governor's staff he opposed bringing back the firing squad and recalled the pain of seeing his brother's body "riddled with bullet holes."

Faced with dwindling supplies of lethal injection drugs, botched executions and legal challenges to the controversial protocol, a growing number of states are looking to legalize alternative execution methods.

Lawmakers in Oklahoma -- the only other state to allow firing squads as an execution method -- are considering a new form of the gas chamber that hasn't been used in a state-sanctioned execution anywhere else in the world.

In February, an Alabama lawmaker drafted a bill that would make firing squads a legal execution method in that state.

Eight other states have the electric chair as an alternative protocol, four have the gas chamber, and three permit hanging, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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