Editorial: Firing squads offer states cheaper execution style


Lawmakers in Missouri and Wyoming have introduced legislation that would add firing squads as an alternate execution option because of difficulties in acquiring lethal injection drugs.

Firing squads are a viable option as an alternative execution method because lethal injection drugs are becoming too expensive.

Pharmaceutical companies are purposely making it difficult to acquire lethal injection drugs because companies and manufacturers are opposed to their use for the procedure.

Lethal injection is expensive, inhumane and difficult, as arguments against it claim. No means of death can satisfy the desire to be humane, but the American execution process can be less expensive for taxpayers with the inclusion of the firing squad as a method of legal execution.

On Jan. 16 in Ohio, an inmate had complications during his lethal injection that included gasping and convulsions. No matter how the execution is carried out, it is never going to be pleasant for the one who experiences it. A firing squad method will be cheap and effective, as bullets only cost a few cents.

The only state that has used this method in the recent past is Utah. The state has utilized a firing squad three times since 1977. The last such occurrence of a firing squad in Utah was in 2010.
Since the United States reinstituted capital punishment in 1976, Utah and Oklahoma are the only states to offer the firing squad as a method of execution.

Even Utah has had a checkered past with the firing squad. Death row inmates in Utah were allowed to choose how they wanted to die. It was not until 2004 that lethal injection became the default method for execution in Utah. Inmates sentenced before 2004 still have a choice of execution method.

Not only are the chemicals for lethal objection difficult to obtain, but they are also pricy.

With pharmaceutical companies not wanting to have their products associated with lethal injection, manufacturers have withheld selling the product to states for that purpose.

Hospira, a major American company that makes a drug that most states use in lethal injection, announced on Jan. 21, 2011, that it would no longer produce the powerful anesthetic. Hospira has a plant in Milan, Italy, which has no capital punishment. Under the demands of Italian political pressure, Hospira decided to stop making sodium thiopental because the company said they could not prevent the drug from being used for the purposes of capital punishment.

This decision, although three years ago, has had ramifications on capital punishment in the United States that include making drugs used in lethal injections difficult to obtain.

Most states use a three-drug combination to execute inmates. Sodium thiopental is used as an anesthesia to cause unconsciousness.
Pancurium bromide paralyzes the inmate and potassium chloride stops the heart.

Other options for executions that have been floated by lawmakers are electrocutions and gas chambers.

Gas chambers present an inherent danger because of the protocol that must be followed to contain lethal gas while not harming anyone besides the inmate. Gas chamber execution is a labor-intensive method that requires manpower and time. As a result, gas chamber executions have not happened in the United States since 1999.

Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia are the only states that have the electric chair as an option. Should lethal injection be declared unconstitutional, then Oklahoma and Arkansas could use electric chairs, although electrocutions are currently not available.

The last time an electrocution took place in the United States was in Jan. 16, 2013, in Virginia.

Given that lethal injection drugs are both expensive and difficult to obtain, a firing squad option makes sense. Death can never be humane, but a firing squad is no different than lethal injection when it comes to ethics. The firing squad is a cheaper, easier and more effective way to execute an inmate sentenced to capital punishment.