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Idaho Favors Firing Squads, Other States Divide On Death Penalty

Idaho wants to bring back the firing squad. The state House last week approved a bill that would allow the execution method as an alternative to lethal injections. Idaho has had trouble getting the drugs needed to kill inmates on its death row. Lawmakers in other Republican-led states likewise want to expand or reinstate the death penalty, for a mixture of practical and political reasons. Some leaders in Democratic-led states are working to abolish it, following the longer-term trend of declining use of capital punishment in the U.S., Stateline reports. Twenty-seven states and the federal government authorize the death penalty, but only a handful use it regularly, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Support for the death penalty has been falling over the decades. The majority of Americans, 55%, favor the death penalty for convicted murderers, according to an October Gallup poll. That’s the second-lowest level of support since 1972, and well below peak support of 80% in 1994. The decline has come mostly from Democrats’ diminished support, while Republicans remain in favor, Gallup found.


The issue came to a head in Idaho in December, when a death row inmate got a reprieve because the state was unable to obtain the needed lethal drugs; the execution has been rescheduled for March 23.  Republican state lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow for death by firing squad if lethal injection is not available or if a court rules that lethal injection is unconstitutional. Firing squads were legal — though never used — in Idaho until 2009, when the legislature repealed the practice. The Idaho House passed the bill 50-15 last week, with five Republicans joining all Democrats present in opposition. “This is a rule of law issue; our criminal system should work and our penalties should be exacted,” said GOP state Rep. Bruce Skaug, the bill’s sponsor. “When promised and deserved, the death penalty should be duly invoked.” He considers the firing squad a better execution method.

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