Firing squads to execute condemned inmates when the state can’t get lethal-injection drugs has been suggested by the state of Idaho, under a bill the legislature passed Monday with a veto-proof majority, reports the Associated Press. Firing squads will be used only if the state cannot obtain the drugs needed for lethal injections resulting in multiple postponed scheduled execution dates. The move by Idaho lawmakers is in line with those by other states that have scrambled to revive older methods of execution, like electric chairs or new drug combinations, because of difficulties obtaining drugs required for longstanding lethal injection programs. Pharmaceutical companies have increasingly barred executioners from using their drugs, saying they were meant to save lives, not take them. Mississippi, Utah, Oklahoma, and South Carolina have laws allowing firing squads if other execution methods are unavailable, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. South Carolina’s law is on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge.
Some lawyers for federal inmates who were eventually put to death argued in court that firing squads actually would be quicker and cause less pain than pentobarbital, which they said causes a sensation akin to drowning.
However, in a 2019 filing, U.S. lawyers cited an expert as saying someone shot by firing squad can remain conscious for 10 seconds and that it would be “severely painful, especially related to shattering of bone and damage to the spinal cord.” Idaho Sen. Doug Ricks, a Republican who co-sponsored that state’s firing squad bill, told senators Monday that the state’s difficulty in finding lethal injection drugs could continue “indefinitely” and that he believes death by firing squad is “humane." Sen. Dan Foreman, also a Republican, said firing-squad executions would traumatize the people who carry them out, the people who witness them, and the people who clean up afterward. “I’ve seen the aftermath of shootings, and it’s psychologically damaging to anybody who witnesses it,” Foreman said. “The use of the firing squad is, in my opinion, beneath the dignity of the state of Idaho.” The law would cost around $750,000 to build or retrofit a death chamber for firing squad executions, according to The Idaho Department of Correction.