Utah Governor Gary Herbert 'Leaning Toward' Firing Squad

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

Utah's governor says he's "leaning toward" signing a bill that would make firing squad the method of execution if the state can't come up with the drugs for lethal injections.

At a news conference on Thursday, Gov. Gary Herbert said he prefers the needle to the bullet but has to make sure there's a backup to carry out capital punishment.

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

State lawmakers approved the bill a week ago, making Utah the latest state to look for alternative methods in the wake of nationwide drug shortages. Death penalty opponents have been urging the Republican governor to veto it.

"I'm leaning toward signing it," Herbert told reporters. "The debate is really more than just the firing squad. It's should we have capital punishment or not?"

A handful of death-row prisoners in Utah are eligible for the firing squad now, but only if they choose it. The bill would let the state impose it against an inmate's will.

"It's not our preference, but we need to have a fallback," he said.

States across the country are having difficulty obtaining the chemicals for lethal injections because manufacturers won't sell them for the purpose of killing someone, and new drug combinations devised to fill the void are under attack as too painful.