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Ten years after banning the use of firing squads in state executions, Utah lawmakers on Wednesday endorsed a proposal to allow the practice again to avoid problems with lethal-injection drugs.
The proposal from Republican Rep. Paul Ray of Clearfield would call for a firing squad if the state cannot obtain the lethal injection drugs 30 days before the scheduled execution. Utah dropped firing squads out of concern about the media attention, but Ray said it's the most humane way to execute someone because the inmate dies instantly.
"We have to have an option," Ray told reporters Wednesday. "If we go hanging, if we go to the guillotine, or we go to the firing squad, electric chair, you're still going to have the same circus atmosphere behind it. So is it really going to matter?"
An interim panel of Utah lawmakers approved the idea on a 9-2 vote Wednesday. The proposal still needs to go through the full legislative process once lawmakers convene for their annual session in January. Under current law, death by firing squad is only an option for criminals sentenced to death before 2004. It was last used in 2010.
For years, states used a three-drug combination to execute inmates, but European drugmakers have refused to sell them to prisons and corrections departments out of opposition to the death penalty. That move has led states to use different types, combinations and doses of lethal drugs, but those methods have been challenged in court.