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Firing Squad

Utah is having problems securing the right execution drugs to carry out their death penalty sentences so the Republican-controlled-state Legislature gave final approval to using firing squads as the default method if the otherwise increasingly rare mixture of lethal drugs cannot be timely secured. The measure was passed Tuesday night and is subject to a possible veto by Gov. Gary Herbert, also a Republican; if he approves the bill, Utah would become the only state to permit firing squads because of the drug shortage. The state has carried out 3 executions by firing squad since 1976.

According to a report filed by Fox News, the bill’s sponsor, Republican Paul Ray, believed a team of shooters would be more humane than the lethal injection because of the botched efforts carried out by states across the nation. Without doubt, the shortage of the drugs has caused turmoil for states, such as Utah, who are eager to utilize the ultimate penalty, but even they are concerned about potential federal litigation and seem to believe that a backup plan such as this could alleviate or bypass the current federal concerns. It is unclear whether the Gov. will sign off on the measure but early indicators suggest he will; past polls conducted in Utah, have shown that 79% of Utahns either strongly or somewhat favor the death penalty.

COMMENT: We have always opposed the death penalty on these pages arguing that the practice is cruel and unusual under all circumstances. We do not mainly base our opinion on the likely proposition that the penalty is administered unfairly based on mental deficiencies, race, age, economic status, or other distinguishing characteristics of those sentenced to death, rather we feel that it is morally wrong for one human to kill another- always. There are individuals simply too dangerous to be allowed to mix with the public for various reasons but we think life in prison for such rare people is an adequate safeguard for the public and the morally correct thing to do. Recognizing the inhumane nature of 24 hour lockups, we also believe that a mentally sound person should have the right to opt for death. For those who still insist on killing such offenders, they should be mindful of the fact that many death cases cost more than life sentences in this country.

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