Utah has reintroduced the use of firing squads as a method to carry out the death penalty. The option will only be used in the event of a shortage of execution drugs.
The state banned the practice in 2004 but those who had chosen that course of death before that time were still shot, meaning the most recent execution in Utah – of Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010 – was by firing squad.
The bill was signed into law on Monday by Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert, who admitted he found the method - where marksmen aim for a target pinned to a person's heart, causing a quick death from blood loss if they hit their mark - "a little bit gruesome”.
"We prefer to use our primary method of lethal injection when such a sentence is issued," the governor's spokesperson said.
"However, when a jury makes the decision and a judge signs a death warrant, enforcing that lawful decision is the obligation of the executive branch."
The decision comes in the wake of shortage of lethal injection drugs in America, caused by European countries – including Britain - implementing export controls on execution drugs in an attempt to put pressure on the US to stop the death penalty.
Earlier this month prison authorities in Texas said they only had one dose of the deadly drug left, and were “actively exploring” using alternative drugs.
Utah is currently the only American state to allow death by firing squad.