Bring back the firing squad? Maybe.

posted at 12:31 pm on May 18, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

As reported by our Townhall colleague Christine Rousselle, Utah Republican representative Paul Ray raised a few eyebrows this week when he proposed bringing back the firing squad as an accepted method of execution in his state. This followed the debacle in Oklahoma over the execution of a convicted monster who buried a young woman alive.

Rep. Paul Ray, a Republican serving in the Utah House of Representatives, wants to bring back the firing squad as an execution method in the state of Utah. Ray’s proposal comes in light of the recent controversies surrounding lethal injection as an execution technique.

Inmates sentenced to death row in Utah could opt for the firing squad until 2004, although Utah executed an inmate, Ronnie Lee Gardner, in this manner in 2010. Gardner was sentenced to death and chose to be executed via firing squad prior to 2004, and thus was grandfathered in. Utah eliminated the firing squad as an option due to “excessive media attention” given to the inmates.

I think that this is worth looking in to–if suffering can be avoided, it makes sense to pursue that route. The firing squad is relatively quick, and with modern rifles, almost guaranteed to be an instant death rather than a slow, drawn-out process.

I suppose my first and overarching question about this story is to ask when, precisely, did it become so controversial to execute a convicted monster by shooting them? I understand and respect that there are plenty of people who hold honest and completely valid objections to the death penalty. (In fact, Ed Morrissey and I are on opposite sides of the issue, as he discussed recently, while public opinion remains substantially in favor of it.) But much of the discussion seems to center on how kindly we can perform the act if we are, in fact to engage in the practice.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but the end objective of capital punishment is to kill someone. It would seem that there are, by definition, limits to exactly how “kind, gentle and painless” we can be when achieving this goal. That’s not to say that we should intentionally torture someone to death, dragged out over a period of days or weeks in some medieval fashion. (Though some families of the victims of these monsters might give it at least passing consideration.) But the fact is that when you drag a convicted monster out of their cell and take them to meet their end, it’s not going to be a stroll in the park for ice cream.

Also to be considered is the fact that one facet of the ostensible goals of capital punishment is to act as a deterrent to others considering similarly heinous crimes. Laying someone down for a nap from which they never awake does not convey the same level of threat to such criminals as lashing them to a pole with a blindfold and a cigarette or leading them up the steps of a gallows featuring a thirteen knot noose. And as Tim Cavanaugh notes at NRO, even opponents struggled to find examples of firing squads being all that ineffective.

A death penalty opponent cited by AP noted that death by firing squad is also not fool-proof, but he had to reach all the way back to Utah’s territorial era for an example of an 1897 execution in which the prisoner took 27 minutes to die.

I maintain that we must continue to be extremely cautious and judicious in our use of the death penalty, needing to shoot for 100% accuracy in determining guilt before it is applied. But when we know we have the correct person in custody, they have been found guilty beyond any reasonable question and exhausted all of their appeals, a certain amount of brutality is not only unavoidable, but in some sense desirable in carrying it out. I don’t know if a firing squad is preferable to a hanging or, as Ed mentioned, the guillotine, but it would seem that a properly trained and organized firing squad could complete the process in short order. With that in mind, Paul Ray wasn’t really saying anything that shocking, extraordinary or outrageous.


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I guess it’s back to hanging.

mixplix on May 18, 2014 at 4:39 PM

Too bad he coughed.

Rea1ityCheck on May 18, 2014 at 4:48 PM

Utah eliminated the firing squad as an option due to “excessive media attention” given to the inmates.

Well who’s fault is that?

BobMbx on May 18, 2014 at 5:23 PM

Two words.

Nitrogen Gas.

TimB52 on May 18, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Utah eliminated the firing squad as an option due to “excessive media attention” given to the inmates.

Well who’s fault is that?

BobMbx on May 18, 2014 at 5:23 PM

Gerado’s

Blake on May 18, 2014 at 6:08 PM

The method of execution should be in the exact way the crime was committed. If it was too heinous then too bad because the victim didn’t get to choose a humane method to die when they were murdered.

bbinfl on May 18, 2014 at 6:24 PM

Why are we so vengeful? Why do we keep these poor oppressed people in cages, like animals?

Isn’t locking them up just like kidnapping? Doesn’t that make us just like kidnappers? We don’t know they’re going to commit more murders!

- Democrat Logic

fadetogray on May 18, 2014 at 6:32 PM

Yes then the firearms makers would find out that their weapons are being used to kill and would stop making said weapon….just like the pharmaceutical giants.

jaywemm on May 18, 2014 at 7:22 PM

Not to put too fine a point on this, but the end objective of capital punishment is to kill someone. It would seem that there are, by definition, limits to exactly how “kind, gentle and painless” we can be when achieving this goal. That’s not to say that we should intentionally torture someone to death, dragged out over a period of days or weeks in some medieval fashion.

On the other hand, if killing them means two minutes of pain, then so be it. The deaths of most people will be more painful than the deaths of most people executed.

thuja on May 18, 2014 at 7:38 PM

Three words:
Involuntary organ donors.

mad scientist on May 18, 2014 at 7:51 PM

The method of execution should be in the exact way the crime was committed. If it was too heinous then too bad because the victim didn’t get to choose a humane method to die when they were murdered.

I don’t agree with this sentiment. Sociopaths have proto-emotions, or in other words don’t feel as deeply as the normal person. So a sociopath will suffer superficially, and it’ll never make them feel remorseful for what they’ve done. It’s just suffering for the sake of suffering.

In my opinion, we should just get rid of them as quickly, quietly, and efficiently as possible. They should just be forgotten.

DevilishSoda on May 18, 2014 at 7:53 PM

Animal Justice.

lexhamfox on May 18, 2014 at 7:54 PM

In any form, capital punishment is unworthy of a civilized nation.

oakland on May 18, 2014 at 1:36 PM

Your knowledge of Scripture is very limited. And the purpose of a death penalty is for JUSTICE, hence no civilized society can do without it – unless you believe we can build a society without murder and rape. (Which would make you a progressive, btw.)

GWB on May 18, 2014 at 8:00 PM

The method of execution should be in the exact way the crime was committed.

bbinfl on May 18, 2014 at 6:24 PM

No. Because if you make it about revenge, then it *is* nothing but the state becoming party to murder. It needs to be justice – executed coolly, calmly, without anger. That is the civilized answer.

GWB on May 18, 2014 at 8:05 PM

Idiot question.

As I understand it, China uses one shot to the back of the neck, and the family is billed for the bullet. What’s wrong with that system?

I dunno about the rest of you, but if *I* am ever executed I want it to be by one person who knows what he’s doing. Not by a squad with at least one rifle loaded with blanks to ease tender consciences. One shot, at most two, by an expert.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

pendell2 on May 18, 2014 at 8:11 PM

The method of death doesn’t matter to a liberal since they have a soft spot for cute and cuddly killers. In you want them to stop whining, tell them you are executing veterans, old folks and babies.

MaiDee on May 18, 2014 at 8:51 PM

The method of death doesn’t matter to a liberal since they have a soft spot for cute and cuddly killers. If you want them to stop whining, tell them you are executing veterans, old folks and babies.

MaiDee on May 18, 2014 at 8:52 PM

I would favor the Guillotine for all the reason the good Dr invented it. Very quick and thought to be nearly painless.

I would be in favor of strapping some criminals down face up when their crimes were particularly heinous.

Hanging would be acceptable, but only if we can go back to the public hangings that were held before Judge Parker ended them.

schmuck281 on May 18, 2014 at 10:06 PM

Drop them off at an Al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan with a sign around their neck that says “Muhammad Sucks” and watch live at five. Problem solved.

NoPain on May 18, 2014 at 10:23 PM

I like the former Soviet / Russian method. When the jury say’s Guilty then the Judge says Death…the perp is walked into a room with a drain in the center of the floor…and an officer has the perp face the opposite wall…he then draws out a 9MM and gives the criminal one to the back of the head. Clean, done and over with.

FlaVet on May 18, 2014 at 10:59 PM

6 hungry lions, one pit, problem solved. And PETA would be happy because the lions are getting fed and doing what comes naturally.

Mo_mac on May 18, 2014 at 11:14 PM

Nitrogen Gas.

TimB52

A better choice: Hydrogen Sulfide Gas… Almost as “toxic” as hydrogen cyanide, much quicker, and painless. It has been a relatively common cause of industrial accident deaths, and will put someone down like they had their life-switch suddenly turned off.

H2S turns off your neural system, and you go out like a light-bulb. HCN shuts down oxygen metabolism, and your body goes “anaerobic” until it runs out of glucose/glycogen… VERY painful until you pass out.

However, my problem with our system of capital punishment is that it is far too expensive and administered by an unfair justice system.

DaveK on May 18, 2014 at 11:30 PM

No. Because if you make it about revenge, then it *is* nothing but the state becoming party to murder. It needs to be justice – executed coolly, calmly, without anger. That is the civilized answer.

GWB on May 18, 2014 at 8:05 PM

No. It is about revenge. It has to be. No civilized society can exist without revenge. Society is supposed to do it in a just manner so wronged individuals won’t engage in feuding.

“You killed my brother, so I’m going to kill you!”

“But I only killed your brother because he raped and murdered my wife.”

“I don’t care about your wife! You murdered my brother!”

In a civilized society, we all agree the sister should not have been raped and murdered, and the brother’s anger and thirst for revenge is unjust. It is not righteous revenge.

In an actual civilized society, not one that is decadent and morally obtuse, we recognize the husband’s desire for revenge for the rape and murder of his wife is righteous, regardless of what the law says, but we require the husband to set aside his personally acting on his righteous thirst for revenge and let society handle the determination of the justness of his claim. We do this (in healthy societies) not because all revenge is bad, but because we need to get general agreement from the citizenry that ‘just revenge’ (justice) has been done.

Sadly, humans have yet to figure out that just because unjust revenge is unjust, that doesn’t mean the desire for righteous revenge is a bad thing.

Instead we go through a song and dance about ‘crimes against society, not against the individual,’ and about all desire for revenge being a bad thing.

Then, when society has turned into a bunch of morally worthless sheep, baaing plaintively as their throats are cut, everyone is baffled about how it happened.

“How did we all become sheep?” Says the clueless fool who disparaged the value of righteous revenge.

fadetogray on May 18, 2014 at 11:35 PM

Yes to bringing back the firing squad. It is cheap & effective.

public opinion remains substantially in favor of it.

True. Glad to see at least one HotGas contributor willing to state the obvious.

Norwegian on May 19, 2014 at 12:21 AM

Excellent to the traitors in office that subvert the Constitution…then we can have a trial afterwards.

rgranger on May 19, 2014 at 12:41 AM

The firing squad is the most humane and dignified way to be executed. No comparison to the other methods. I support this.

cimbri on May 19, 2014 at 1:11 AM

In any form, capital punishment is unworthy of a civilized nation.

oakland on May 18, 2014 at 1:36 PM

You and others who think that way make me puke. Would you be so analytical if a close family member was scared, tortured and suffered an excruciating death? Yep, you probably would and that makes it even worse.

arnold ziffel on May 19, 2014 at 1:49 AM

Wood-chippers are fast and make excellent mulch

This a an eco-bio-friendly approach and can be considered recycling.

BigSven on May 19, 2014 at 5:35 AM

There is a science to hanging, and when applied properly it is very quick, very certain. It would be my choice, were I given one.

NeoCon_1 on May 19, 2014 at 7:08 AM

I’ll say this every time. Hypoxia.

Its the best way to execute people.

What you do is take the oxygen out of the room but leave the nitrogen in it.

The air force does this to pilots to train them for situations where their air cuts out.

There is no pain. They don’t even notice the oxygen is gone. There is a gradual loss of mental faculties, they start to giggle, then they pass out… within five minutes they’re dead.

Its humane. They go out laughing.

Its simple. It can be maintained by engineers and doesn’t need medical personnel. It needs no special materials. Basically just a tank of nitrogen and an airtight room. You flood the room with nitrogen and push out the oxygen. The human respiratory system is designed to ignore nitrogen. What causes a panic reaction is lots of CO2. Then the body thinks its being smothered and re breathing its own exhaled air. But nitrogen is ignored. So you remove the oxygen and CO2, and leave the nitrogen.

Simple. Cheap. Humane. 100 percent effective every single time.

The body is not mutilated in any way. It looks untouched. No bruising. No needle marks. No burn marks. No bullet holes.

Karmashock on May 19, 2014 at 7:37 AM

As towards other points …

How is punishing murder with death unworthy of a civilized nation? The point of “justice” is that an offender is paid back in his own coin. When you’re talking about a serial murderer like Ted Bundy, the only reason death isn’t just is because you can only hang a man once, when in fact he deserves to die once for every life he cut short.

The fact that we put criminals to death as painlessly as possible is a mercy on our side. “Justice” would require that a criminal undergo the exact same indignities and hardship s/he inflicted on his victims.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

pendell2 on May 19, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Have they ever asked an inmate that was executed when it was all over
“Did it hurt?” Bet you they didn’t say anything much.

BruceB on May 19, 2014 at 10:27 AM

I favor the firing squad. What’s easier and more foolproof than having half a dozen sharpshooters with rifles at 10 yards do the job? If the first volley didn’t kill him instantly, a second round could put an end to things really quickly. A “botched” execution would involve a maximum of 10-20 seconds of suffering/shock.

LukeinNE on May 19, 2014 at 1:30 PM

I remember reading a science fiction story years ago about a society that had taken the whole humane execution thing to an extreme. They would put someone sentenced to death into a furnished apartment. Starting at a particular time, and for the next 2 days, everything in the apartment might turn lethal, gas out of couch cushions, poisoned water, whatever. If the perp survived the 2 days he would go free. The protagonist drank tons of water, and figured he would have to stay awake for 2 days and watch everything.

Then, the monitor lit up on the wall and said he’d been acquitted, and could go free. He was happy, and when he turned the doorknob to leave, a micro needle injected him with a lethal, fast acting poison, he never felt a thing. They had gotten so wimpy about it they didn’t even want the person to think they were going to die.

But hanging and firing squad are perfectly fine, quick, and relatively painless, but to be honest I don’t care if it’s painless or not.

We need someone as practical as the Roman Emperor Vespasian. In Rome you couldn’t crucify a citizen, too slow and brutal, the usual was killed by wild beasts in the arena. When Vespasian was governor of a province, three men were convicted of some particularly heinous crime. Vespasian said, crucify them. One guy pipes up and says you can’t crucify me, I’m a Roman citizen. Vespasian said “paint his cross white and hang him higher than the others.” Practical man that.

Severian on May 19, 2014 at 2:20 PM

If we bring back firing squads then let’s make them available for public viewing and all members of firing squad are given live rounds vice the the tradition of loading the weapons with blanks except one only that is given an actual round. This would assure the sentence is carried out as the law requires “quickly and justly”.

MSGTAS on May 20, 2014 at 9:29 AM

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