Firing Squad Execution Makes Comeback in This Western State

Firing Squad Execution Makes Comeback in This Western State

( – The standard means of execution in the United States is lethal injection. The Supreme Court has upheld it as a means to put prisoners to death in a way that is not cruel and unusual, the constitutional standard. One state’s legislature has now passed a law bringing back another method.

On March 20, the Idaho legislature passed a bill to bring back firing squads in the event the drugs for lethal injection cannot be obtained. The law passed with a veto-proof majority, meaning that even if Governor Brad Little (R) vetoed the measure, the legislature could overturn it, and the law would go into effect without him. The governor has not indicated whether he supports the bill, but he is a death penalty proponent.

In the last decade or so, states have had difficulty finding the drugs used for lethal injection. Many pharmaceutical companies have banned the use of their products to kill inmates. For example, in 2019, Pfizer announced it was only selling its drugs to buyers who would certify that they would not resell them to prisons. In 2011 and 2012, the European Union prohibited all drugs used in lethal injections from being sold to the US if they would be sold to prisons for executions.

In the years since the bans went into place, lawmakers around the country have started coming up with alternative execution methods. Idaho would be the fifth state to approve firing squads, the others are Oklahoma, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Utah. Alabama built, but has not tested, a system to use nitrogen gas to kill death row inmates. Some states are bringing back the electric chair as an alternative, while others have used or are considering drug combinations that are not designed for executions.

Idaho Senator Doug Ricks (R), a co-sponsor of the firing squad bill, said the method is “humane” and executions should be carried out when that is the sentence that was handed down. “Our criminal system should work and penalties should be exacted,” he said.

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