Utah State Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, plans to introduce a bill next year that will allow death row inmates the option to be executed by a firing squad.
"It sounds like the Wild West, but it's probably the most humane way to kill somebody," Ray said.
Ray hopes to introduce the bill during the next legislative session in January.
Although similar efforts in Wyoming and Missouri have stalled, Ray’s measure has the potential to succeed given that the state already has a tradition of execution by firing squad. Banned in 2004, inmates sentenced to death before then were able to choose if they wanted execution by firing squad. Death row inmate Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed in 2010 by five police officers using .30-caliber Winchester rifles.
Gardner was the third person to be executed by rifle since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty.
“The prisoner dies instantly. It sounds draconian. It sounds really bad, but the minute the bullet hits your heart, you're dead. There's no suffering,” he said.
Opponents say much could go wrong with the procedure. Inmates could move, shooters could miss, both of which could result in an agonizing, slow death, says Richard Dieter, executive director of the D.C.-based anti-capital punishment group the Death Penalty Information Center.
"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 Associated Press. "Things can go wrong with any method of execution."
But Ray argues that situations like the botched lethal injection of convicted rapist and murderer Clayton Locket must be avoided.
"There's no easy way to put somebody to death, but you need to be efficient and effective about it," Ray said. "This is certainly one way to do that."