With the recent problems of obtaining the right drugs to use in capital punishment, some US politicians are getting a little panicky, and are actually considering a return to the days of the good, old-fashioned firing squad.
This is especially true with recent execution in Ohio of murderer and rapist, Dennis McGuire, who suffered a painful round of snorting and gasping for air before he finally died. Activists are calling this cruel and inhuman punishment and once again stressing their demands to ban the death penalty.
Some states are still turning to pharmaceutical concoctions to try and get a suitable drug for the lethal injection process, but after the McGuire debacle, this is becoming difficult.
Lawmakers in two US states in particular are becoming concerned about the lack of lethal injection drugs and are openly stating that they would definitely consider executing prisoners by firing squad as a form of capital punishment, even though the practice has been pretty much phased out in the so-called civilized world.
One of the these states is Missouri. State Representative Rick Brattin recently told the media that quite a few of the state’s Republicans do support the idea of switching to firing squads. Pointing out that on average, prisoners wait far too long as it is to receive justice, he said that the firing squad would be the ideal solution to speed things up a bit. He didn’t, however, mention how this would affect the appeals process for the prisoner and brings to mind the thought of innocent prisoners being executed.
Brattin said that while many people might picture the 1850s, with everyone in a line to be shot, the actual reality is that people suffer with every kind of death. He says that a firing squad is no less humane than using a lethal injection, and that if he had to choose, he would rather take the firing squad option over the choice of lethal injection anytime. It might be interesting to see him actually faced with that choice.
At present, under Missouri’s current law, inmates can be executed using gas, but reportedly this method has not been utilized since 1965 and is not considered a good alternative.
The other state currently hoping to change their execution methods is Wyoming. State Senator Bruce Burns is the one pushing for the change and his bill is due to be considered in the legislative session in February.
Wyoming is also allowed to use gas, but the state has also not done this since 1965 and lawmakers in Wyoming say that gas would only ever be chosen if the drugs for lethal injection became totally unavailable.
Referring to the use of gas, Burns said that he considers the gas chamber option to be “cruel and unusual”, so he went for the firing squad option, “because they also have it in Utah.”
Burns also stressed that using a firing squad is cheaper as opposed to any other method of execution and that the expense of building a gas chamber is prohibitive, especially considering how many people would actually get to use it.
As Burns did mention, Utah is the only US state that has actually used the firing squad for capital punishment and has, apparently done so three times since 1977, with the latest execution using this method occurring in 2010.
It is interesting to note that Utah is not one of the states planning on continuing with the firing squad. Richard Dieter, who is executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said that Utah is actually phasing out this option. He says that politicians who are pushing for the method are simply desperate to solve the crisis caused by the lack of lethal injection drugs.
Dieter warned that by changing to the firing squad method, it is likely that more problems will be created than will be solved, as it would “raise concerns in the federal courts, perhaps the state courts, about whether an unusual, perhaps a cruel and unusual punishment is being inflicted.”
Your thoughts, readers. Do you think US states should actually do away with the death penalty and capital punishment entirely, or do you think that considering the return of the firing squad as a method of execution by US lawmakers is actually a good idea?
By Anne Sewell