Back to firing squads for executions?

posted at 2:31 pm on January 18, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

Earlier this month the state of Ohio ran into some problems executing Dennis McGuire, who had been convicted of raping and murdering Joy Stewart in 1989. Having run out of pentobarbital – the execution drug of choice – due to a boycott by the manufacturer, they “experimented” with a new drug combination which apparently took too long to kill him in the view of some observers. Capital punishment is controversial enough these days, and if this is going keep up an alternate solution will be required. With that in mind, lawmakers from Missouri and Wyoming have suggested going back to a tried and true method of dispatching the monsters in our midst.

Missouri state Representative Rick Brattin, said Friday the controversy over lethal injections forces families of murder victims to wait too long for justice so he introduced his bill Thursday to add “firing squad” as an execution option.

“A lot of folks may picture the 1850s and everyone lining up to shoot, but the reality is that people suffer with every type of death,” said Brattin, a Republican. “This is no less humane than lethal injection.”

Brattin’s bill follows a measure Republican Wyoming state Senator Bruce Burns introduced last week to add firing squad as an execution option for the state if drugs are not available.

“If I had my choice, I would take the firing squad over lethal injection,” Burns said.

Wyoming law also allows inmates to be gassed, but the state does not have a gas chamber, Burns said.

This story reminds me very much of the first execution I can remember and the controversy surrounding it which erupted into a debate in my own home. That was when Gary Gilmore was scheduled to die in Utah and he apparently didn’t have any problem with a firing squad, judging by his final words. (“Let’s do it!“) I was just leaving for boot camp at the time, and my parents were regularly debating Utah’s plan to allow Gilmore the death he chose. My Dad’s take on it, delivered in his usual, deadpan style was to say, “It worked well enough on the Germans.” (Knowing the stories of how long my Dad spent in Europe during WW2, that probably wasn’t just a joke, either.) My Mom was born and raised Catholic and didn’t believe in the hand of man taking the lives of people, be it capital punishment for criminals or abortion of babies. But even if it had to be done, she seemed particularly horrified by the idea of using a firing squad to do it.

I know many of you oppose executions in principle, and well meaning people are certainly able to make a strong case for their opinions on this issue. Personally, I feel that the death penalty is justified for the worst monsters, though we need to set a very high bar for being sure we’ve got the right person identified as the guilty party. (There isn’t exactly an option to repeal if you mess that one up.) But how to do it?

This goes back to what I’ve always seen as one of the rather nonsensical aspects of the debate. It went downhill somewhat when we introduced the idea of “compassionate execution” into the conversation. It doesn’t seem to me that a firing squad is particularly slower, more painful or measurably more “cruel” than any other method, providing the shooters are well trained and using the right equipment for the job. And even if you do believe that a firing squad isn’t the most “humane” way to intentionally kill a convicted monster, how did we become so wrapped up in the “cruel and unusual” aspect of this debate anyway? It’s not like being killed is going to be a particularly pleasant experience no matter how it’s done, and you probably should have thought of that before you decided to rape and kill all those women.

It seems to me that a well executed (pardon the pun) date with a firing squad is just as effective as any other method, and probably a lot quicker and cleaner than either an electric chair or a gas chamber. And when legislators claim that it’s barbaric or exceedingly cruel, you should point them to some of the executions in Florida’s infamous chair, Old Sparky. A line of well trained men with high power rifles is probably more of a courtesy than most killers deserve by comparison.

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Bmore on January 19, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Hang them, the US Army has quite the nice field manual that gives a step by step procedure, even has drop tables for the length of rope to be used.

glcinpdx on January 19, 2014 at 1:57 PM

Agree. Its cheap and effective. Besides, there is a good tradition for this method in the US. While I like the firing squad idea, its more of a European/Asian tradition.

While we are on the topic, I would like to see the death penalty expanded in the US. Just reserving it for the “heinous crimes” is being way too restrictive. The death penalty should be an option for any 1st degree murder conviction, as well as for pedophiles and certain drug crimes.

Hang ’em high.

Norwegian on January 19, 2014 at 2:42 PM

I know a method of execution even liberals love. First you slide the condemned person through a moist, narrow channel. Then stab scissors into the back of his neck and sever his spinal cord. Then cut off his feet and put them in a jar. Wendy Davis is a big advocate of this method of killing humans. Right, Wendy?

Doug Piranha on January 19, 2014 at 4:42 PM

I like the Chinese method.

Take the condemned out to a field and have them kneel.
One shot to the back of the head.
An one more by another guard to the head to make sure.
They do multiple executions at a time.
They then send the family of the condemned a bill for the bullet.

They then quickly take the bodies to a parked van and remove its organs for transplant.

I disagree with how the death penalty is applied in terms of its use as a punishment for many crimes, particularly political ones but it is a Commie dictatorship after all, that do not involve the death of another. However the manner of execution is quick, quicker than drugs really, and relatively painless.

The harvesting of organs without the consent of the condemned is barbaric but on par with a Commie dictatorship: the State owns all, you own nothing, not even your organs for the State is god so it can take them anytime it wishes.

Bubba Redneck on January 19, 2014 at 5:48 PM

I think we should have as many execution possibilities as possibly possible. Diversity people, diversity!

Mojave Mark on January 19, 2014 at 6:15 PM

I know a method of execution even liberals love. First you slide the condemned person through a moist, narrow channel. Then stab scissors into the back of his neck and sever his spinal cord. Then cut off his feet and put them in a jar. Wendy Davis is a big advocate of this method of killing humans. Right, Wendy?

Doug Piranha on January 19, 2014 at 4:42 PM

Thread winner!!!11!1!111!1!!!1

Nutstuyu on January 19, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Norwegian on January 19, 2014 at 2:42 PM

I’d say go for the trifecta: hang ’em, shoot ’em, then draw and quarter ’em. Then you can kill them with a skeet gun.

Nutstuyu on January 19, 2014 at 6:58 PM

Seventeen months after Bundy’s execution, witness accounts of flames shooting from the head of convicted cop killer Jesse Tafero made headlines around the world. For four minutes, Tafero, 43, clenched his fists, convulsed and appeared to breathe deeply as smoke and sparks shot out of his death mask.

It worked right that time.

scrubjay on January 19, 2014 at 8:27 PM

A line of well trained men with high power rifles is probably more of a courtesy than most killers deserve by comparison.

Just being nitpicky here, because I agree with the point of this statement, but high powered rifles aren’t necessary. At 25 yards, six people firing five .22lr shells into a prisoner’s heart works perfectly.

And the rounds are quite inexpensive.

Freelancer on January 20, 2014 at 2:04 AM

Why are conservatives so insistent on the body being mutilated?
libfreeordie on January 19, 2014 at 10:38 AM

Please link to the post arguing for mutilation of a corpse, professor.
rogerb on January 19, 2014 at 12:00 PM

I guess there was a conference to attend.

rogerb on January 20, 2014 at 7:54 AM

Simply use a Propofol overdose. This was going to be used in Missouri but there would have been supply problems (refusal to export from Europe). The patent expires March 2015, so a generic version can be produced at that time.

RUReady2RNR on January 20, 2014 at 10:20 AM

The Guillotine needs to be brought back into service. It’s scary, graphic, even majestic in a way, as well as absolutely final and damn near idiot proof.

It’s also fast and humane as was its original intent.

CaptFlood on January 20, 2014 at 2:58 PM

I agree that the guillotine is about as humane as you’re going to get without making a major (and therefore fallible) production of it. If you put enough mass on top of the blade, it doesn’t matter how dull or notched it might be.

It’s a very dramatic method of execution, without being drawn out and torturous. Certainly makes an impression.

Immolate on January 20, 2014 at 3:09 PM

Hanging. Quick, relatively painless (especially if the neck snaps on the drop), cheap, and reusable.

TheMightyMonarch on January 20, 2014 at 10:51 PM

I was also going to say that it’s the greenest form of execution, but I don’t want to make the left-wing ninnies pee their rubber underpants with rage.

TheMightyMonarch on January 20, 2014 at 10:51 PM

Since prison is all about “rehabilitation” now instead of punishment, I don’t see what the point is of life sentences where the taxpayer foots the bill for the guy for decades…he’s not getting punished at all.

I’ve shot plenty of critters, high powered rifle bullet through the heart shuts off the lights very quickly. Soldiers describe getting shot as a hard thump and sting – but like I said, that sensation wouldn’t last very long.

Having said that, we’ve had to put old dogs down, the vet uses a morphine overdose. What’s wrong with that?

John_G on January 21, 2014 at 9:47 AM

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