The Wild West, times of war and a totalitarian government are what may come to mind when one thinks of execution by firing squad.
It’s a little closer to home, though. The Utah House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would revive the firing squad as an option for the death penalty, reopening the complex debate of the role execution should play in our modern society.
Utah has a long history with the firing squad. While the rest of the country committed its last execution by firing squad in 1913, it has been the preferred form of execution in Utah until 2004, when it was last banned.
If the bill passes in the state Senate, Utah would join the notorious list of countries that still execute by firing squad — including North Korea, China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
As college students in Utah, the future of issues like this will be decided by our generation.
“[Execution by firing squad] is a really inhumane way to die,” said Hailey Foster, a freshman biology major from Henderson, Nevada. “It’s horrible not only for the inmate, but also for the firing squad members — having to live with someone’s death on your hands.”
In comparison with other methods of execution, the firing squad may not be as inhumane as it may seem. The preferred method of execution in the U.S. is the lethal injection. There have been many cases of botched lethal injections, where the inmates suffer before dying. The firing squad can be quick and painless if the executioners are accurate in their aim. Otherwise, the inmate can be left to bleed to death.
No matter how we administer it, execution will never be perfect.
Criminal justice professor Mike Tatum said the death penalty is necessary because it provides a deterrent for would-be murderers, closure for victims and family members, and protection for the public.
“But why do we kill people who kill people to teach them not to kill people?” Tatum said. “If you look at it that way, the death penalty is almost hypocritical.”
Although the U.S. is the last western country that still uses the death penalty, its intentional homicide rate is over twice as high as most places in Europe, where the justice system tends to seek rehabilitation for criminals rather than punishment.
Whether or not the firing squad is more humane than other forms of execution, reintroducing it in Utah is a step in the wrong direction. As proven in Europe, we need to move toward a more progressive justice system, where criminals are rehabilitated rather than crushed. No matter what a person has done, a human life is still a human life.