These days, it’s getting increasingly hard to kill a prisoner in the United States. This increasing difficulty isn’t for want of enthusiasm or a lack of legal backing for capital punishment, it’s due to the growing lack of a drug necessary for the humane execution of a prisoner. The lack of the drug, sodium thiopental, is thanks to a growing international opposition to the death penalty. Since the majority of sodium thiopental is manufactured abroad, several notable producers of the drug have quit production amid the rapidly changing global climate. In the United States, where capital punishment is still very much the norm, that means it’s increasingly difficult to get a ready supply of sodium thiopental, a scarcity that has delayed executions and thrown the entire justice system into a tizzy.
Now, however, some legislators from Utah have decided to innovate their capital punishment policies by going old school and bringing back the firing squad. The legislation, presented Wednesday, would bring back an alternative to death by lethal injection that has been illegal in the state since 2003. You might see this legislation and assume it’s come about because of the recent string of botched lethal injections that have been occurring as people experiment with sodium thiopental alternatives. So far, the results have been wholly unacceptable. One man in Ohio took 26 minutes to die after authorities used a completely untested cocktail. Another death row inmate was alive for nearly two full hours after his lethal injection went south.
Of course, it’s not a criminal’s safety that’s at the forefront of Paul Ray’s mind. Ray, the Republican who put forth the legislation, was quoted as saying about the previously bungled executions, “I don’t know if you’d call them botched because they did die. You had one guy who’s a child rapist, who murdered or raped and buried a 7-year-old girl alive. I wish we could make it longer, not shorter on his death to be honest with you. These are heinous people.”
And heinous people they are. Heinous people who probably deserve to get put down. However, that mindset shouldn’t preclude them from a quick and relatively pain-free death. At the risk of melodrama, a quote springs to mind. Lots of people said something similar, but we’ll go with Ghandi’s version: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” As a society, we should endeavor to treat even the most despicable among us as humanely as possible. Isn’t taking their life enough of a punishment? Do we really need to torture these people to death?
That’s why, quite honestly, the firing squad seems like a good idea (in spite of the fact that the man who proposed it seems like a crazy a-hole). Not only is a firing squad cheaper by about $80, but it’s also – in light of the increasing shortage of lethal injection ingredients – pretty darn humane by comparison. After all, the grand total time of true suffering for someone executed by firing squad is about 30 seconds. Max. And that’s only supposing the initial bombardment didn’t get the job done. Really, death by firing squad would be virtually instantaneous.
There are lots of good arguments both for and against (but mostly for) the death penalty. This article is no attempt to proselytize. That said, if we’ve decided that the best course of discipline for America is to keep executing those criminals we determine are unredeemable, then shouldn’t we at least attempt to make sure that those fiends are put down with some degree of civility and certainty?