Why Are Firing Squads Such a Big Deal?

Utah has reinstated firing squads as a backup method of executing prisoners who are sentenced to die.


If you don’t believe in capital punishment, then the method doesn’t matter. Anything that kills a person is objectionable because it kills.

Of course, there are really inhumane ways of killing people that would shade into torture. Even if a person is guilty of murdering in a way that involved torturing his victims, the job of the government is not to develop a system of perfect payback in this life. Execution should be simple and quick.

A bullet in the heart or brain easily meets this requirement.

But consider this story at Newser.com:

Utah became the only state to allow firing squads for executions today when Gov. Gary Herbert signed a law approving the method’s use when no lethal-injection drugs are available. Herbert has said he finds the firing squad “a little bit gruesome,” but Utah is a capital punishment state and needs a backup execution method in case a shortage of the drugs persists. “We regret anyone ever commits the heinous crime of aggravated murder to merit the death penalty, and we prefer to use our primary method of lethal injection when such a sentence is issued,” Herbert spokesman Marty Carpenter says. “However, when a jury makes the decision and a judge signs a death warrant, enforcing that lawful decision is the obligation of the executive branch.”

Obviously, the decision makers in the state government don’t want to get stuck if they don’t have the “right” chemicals to carry out an execution. Others are very upset about this decision.

Opponents of the Utah measure say firing squads are barbaric, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah saying the bill makes the state “look backward and backwoods.”

No, it makes an act of killing a human being look like an act of killing a human being. What is truly “barbaric” is pretending that killing a man or woman is a medical procedure to be done with injections and overseen by a doctor.

In my opinion that is far worse. Let executions stop pretending to be something else.