Shot through the heart: Utah wants to bring back the firing squad

Big Briggy


Execution advocates in Utah are trying to rally support around an old friend: the firing squad is being discussed as a method of execution in that state.

It’s not as far-fetched an idea as it might sound. Utah has carried out three firing squad executions since 1976, but none since 2010.

Increasingly, the chemical cocktail used in lethal injections has been hard to come by for states that still have the death penalty. Pharmaceutical companies are just reluctant to sell to prison systems. Which is why, in the absence of the right syringe-filling stuff, Utah is considering an older, more tried-and-true method.

Says state representative Paul Ray, “It’s more humane than the electric chair, hanging or lethal injection. You don’t see the struggling or anything.”

Ray continued:

I’m sure there’s some initial pain to it, but you don’t see the struggling and the trying to breathe you see on any type of lethal injection. Even on the ones that are the lethal drug cocktail, you still see the gurgling and the fighting to breathe….[This is] absolutely one of the most humane ways to execute someone because it’s so quick and, quite honestly, one of the most painless ways.

Lethal injection became the state’s primary means of execution in 2004…because people believed it was more humane.

Only four states have ever used the firing squad: Utah; Idaho; Nevada; and Oklahoma.

Of those four, the method is still on the books in Oklahoma. It’s available only as a secondary means of execution, meaning that if you’re on death row there, and the state can’t get the right chemicals to inject you to death, you might get shot instead.

Wyoming, by the by, is also considering bring firing squads back.

Utah will decide the matter in its 2015 legislative session.



What do you, the viewers at home, think? Is this a simple solution to a serious problem? An inhumane idea from a bygone era? Or something else?

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