In this June 18, 2010, file photo, the firing squad execution chamber at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah, is shown.
Trent Nelson/AP

Utah Republican seeks return of executions by firing squad

A Utah Republican lawmaker wants to bring back executions by firing squad—saying it’s a more humane way for the state to kill people than lethal injection.

State Rep. Paul Ray’s proposal, which he says he’ll introduce next session, comes in the wake of Oklahoma’s recent botched execution by lethal injection, which set off a nationwide debate not just about that method of killing but about the death penalty more broadly.

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Utah eliminated execution by firing squad in 2004, but people who had already been sentenced to die before the move were allowed to choose it. That’s why in 2010, five police officers used .30-caliber Winchester rifles to execute Ronnie Lee Gardner, a convicted murderer.

“The prisoner dies instantly,” Ray told the Associated Press of his firing squad plan. “It sounds draconian. It sounds really bad, but the minute the bullet hits your heart, you’re dead. There’s no suffering.”

“There’s no easy way to put somebody to death, but you need to be efficient and effective about it,” Ray added. “This is certainly one way to do that.”

But Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes the death penalty, said that’s not necessarily so.

“The idea is that it would be very quick and accurate, but just a little movement by the person could change that,” Dieter told the AP. “Things can go wrong with any method of execution.”

Dieter said if Utah reinstates the firing squad, it could be challenged in court.

Death Penalty and Utah

Utah Republican seeks return of executions by firing squad