Facing Death-Drug Shortages, State Lawmaker Considers Firing Squads

For one Wyoming senator, meting out capital punishment has come to this.

A view of the death chamber from the witness room at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio. 
National Journal
Brian Resnick
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Brian Resnick
Jan. 14, 2014, 8:08 a.m.

Faced with short­ages of death-pen­alty drugs, states for the past few years have ex­plored more “cre­at­ive” solu­tions to kill people. Some have turned to secret com­pound­ing phar­ma­cies to cre­ate the leth­al drugs that no phar­ma­ceut­ic­al com­pany wants to be seen selling — though the ef­fic­acy of such drugs are shaky. Oth­ers, like Flor­ida, have turned to ex­per­i­ment­al sed­at­ives.

And now one Wyom­ing law­maker is ad­voc­at­ing for the re­turn of the fir­ing squad in his state.

“One of the reas­ons I chose fir­ing squad as op­posed to any oth­er form of ex­e­cu­tion is be­cause frankly it’s one of the cheapest for the state,” state Sen. Bruce Burns tells CBS. The gas cham­ber, un­der Wyom­ing law, is the second op­tion for ex­e­cu­tion after chem­ic­al in­jec­tion. The state does not cur­rently own a gas cham­ber. Ok­lahoma is the only state that has fir­ing squad as an ex­e­cu­tion op­tion. And Utah has phased out its use of the fir­ing squad. Only three fir­ing-squad ex­e­cu­tions have been car­ried out since 1976.

Wyom­ing, Ok­lahoma, Mis­souri, Flor­ida, Texas, and oth­er states with cap­it­al pun­ish­ment are all faced with the same di­lem­mas on how to con­duct ex­e­cu­tions. Keep in mind that the European Uni­on ac­tu­ally has gone so far as to sanc­tion the U.S. for pur­chas­ing death-pen­alty drugs. And faced with the prob­lem, death-pen­alty pro­test­ers have raised com­plaints of cruel and un­usu­al pun­ish­ment as the states ex­per­i­ment with new (or per­haps old) ways to kill people. Mean­while, pub­lic ap­prov­al of the death pen­alty is at its low­est rate in four dec­ades.

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