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Protestors Rally At State Capitol Against Firing Squad Bill

State Capitol, Utah

A proposal to reintroduce firing squads for Utah executions is stirring fresh debate on the death penalty.

Lethal injection is currently the only permissible option for state executions, but there is some concern that the drugs required to administer lethal injections are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. State Rep. Paul Ray (R) is the bill's sponsor, and says he wants firing squads to be an alternative option.

The last man to be executed by firing squad in Utah was convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardiner in 2010. On Tuesday, Gardner's brother Randy Gardner joined a protest at the state Capitol in opposition to firing squads.

"You take someone and tie them up to a chair and put a hood over their head and fire four bullets into their chest, it's pretty cruel and unusual punishment I believe," Gardner said. "The effect it has on the families of the executed, you know we felt like it was premeditate murder right down to the time and the day and the minute that they executed him. We don't want to become like killers and do what they have done."

House Speaker Greg Hughes says he has no strong opinion either way on the bill. Rather, he says the ethical questions posed by the firing squad debate skirt the bigger issues at hand.

"The bigger issue is capital punishment- yea, or nay. That's an issue that I actually understand. The process once you've gotten past that and you have capital punishment, is... does it just make us feel better? Is that what we think? That we can just do it one way instead of the other and that's more palatable to us? I mean, get to the root question I say," Hughes said.

Firing squads were previously banned by the Utah Legislature in 2004. Rep. Hughes voted against that ban.