Lawmakers Urge Return of Firing Squads Due to Lack of Execution Drugs

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

If death row inmates can’t be executed using lethal injections, due to drug shortages, then why not go back to firing squads? That’s what some Republican politicians are proposing.


The call for a return to shooting convicted murderers has surfaced in two states so far: Missouri and Wyoming.


These two states, like others, have had trouble getting the ingredients for lethal injections in recent years, causing delays in executions.


Another state, Ohio, decided to try a new combination of drugs to execute an inmate, Dennis McGuire. But that experiment went badly, as it took 25 minutes for McGuire to die. His relatives now plan to sue the state for what they said amounted to “torture.”


Not wanting to go Ohio’s route, a Missouri lawmaker, GOP state Representative Rick Brattin, has proposed legislation (pdf) that would authorize a five-person firing squad to carry out death sentences.


Missouri does have a gas chamber, but it hasn’t been used in nearly 50 years. Execution by a firing squad would be “quick and something we could do at a moment's notice,” Brattin said in an interview on the radio network Missourinet.


The firing squad idea is also popular with Republican state Senator Bruce Burns of Wyoming, who introduced a similar bill (pdf) in the legislature. “One of the reasons I chose firing squad, as opposed to any other form of execution, is because frankly, it's one of the cheapest for the state,” Burns told the Associated Press.


Wyoming law states that executions must be performed by gas chamber, but none exists in the state. Wyoming has only one inmate on death row, and Burns said it wouldn’t be worth building a gas chamber just for him.


Utah is the only state that legally uses firing squads to carry out death penalties; however state law dictates that inmates to be executed must have been convicted prior to 2004. The state, which is in the process of phasing out its firing squads, last used that method of execution in 2010, and prior to that in 1996.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Some States Look at Reviving Firing Squads amid Shortage of Execution Drugs (NBC News)

Wyo. Lawmaker Proposes Firing Squad for Executions (by Steve Stout, WSLS 10)

House Bill No. 1470 (State of Missouri) (pdf)

A Bill for Death Penalty Execution (State of Wyoming) (pdf)

Executions Delayed Because of Drug Shortage (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)  


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