Death by firing squad law approved in state of Utah, but only if the drugs run out

At least two other American states are now considering using firing squads

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Police sharpshooters in Utah will soon be asked to volunteer for firing squads after the state approved the method of execution as a “back-up” for when drugs used in lethal injections are not available.

At least two other American states are now considering using firing squads after the Republican Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, signed a new law allowing the state to perform executions by firing squad on condition that injection drugs are not available. He admitted the idea of death by bullet sounded “a little gruesome”.

For more than three decades Utah gave death row inmates a choice between lethal injection and the firing squad. That law was overturned in 2004. In 2010 Ronnie Gardner, who had chosen the option while it was available, became the last person in the US to be killed by fusillade, as it is known.


Utah has sent three men to their deaths by firing squad since the death penalty became legal again in the United States in 1973. As the execution date approaches, the state asks police marksmen to volunteer. There was never a shortage of applicants.

Five are issued with Winchester rifles and told to aim for a target over the inmate’s heart. One is always issued with a rifle with blanks, however, so that everyone participating can tell themselves they may not actually have killed a man later on.

Among critics of the new Utah law is the brother of Randy Gardner. He said he did not condone anything his brother had done, but it saddened him that Utah was standing out among US states by re-embracing the death penalty. “My god, we’re the only ones that are shooting people in the heart,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said the bill makes the state “look backward and backwoods”.

Many of the 32 US states that have capital punishment on their books have been casting around for viable alternatives to lethal injection as manufacturers of the drugs traditionally involved have moved to restrict their sale to prisons because of moral objections.

Supplies in several states have ran out.