GOP Response To Execution Drug Shortage: Bring Back The Firing Squad – And Why Stop There?

GOP lawmakers scramble to continue executions in America. Why? 1956 photo of a Cuban fire squad executing a prisoner.

Why does America still execute? It’s archaic, sloppily applied and cruel. But the GOP is scrambling to keep execution: here are some suggestions for them. Photo of a Cuban firing squad executing a prisoner cc 1956 by unknown photographer via Wikimedia Commons.

With the ugly execution of murderer Dennis McGuire in Ohio last week, the GOP has shown that it will go to any length to execute prisoners. Now, a Republican Missouri state Representative wants to bring back the firing squad.

Where are the execution drugs we used to use?

Last summer, Addicting Info reported on the decision of European Commission to bar European drug manufacturers from selling to U.S. prisons. An Indian drug company also joined the boycott. The last remaining company that made the drugs used in execution, a Danish firm, was sold to Illinois company, Akorn. They said that they will not distribute the drug — pentobarbital — to states who carry out the death penalty. So that left death penalty states scrambling for replacement drugs. Obviously, Ohio tossed together their deadly cocktail without really knowing what it would do. Now that they know, where do they turn?

Missouri Rep. suggests firing squads.

Last Friday, Representative Rick Brattin introduced legislation that would bring back the firing squad as a method of execution in that state. He pointed to the Ohio execution, saying that alternative forms are obviously needed. Abolishing the death penalty apparently didn’t cross his mind. It seldom does for Republicans.

Though Missouri also allows execution by gas chamber, their chamber has been non-functional since 1965, when that method fell out of favor. It was phased out for the same reason that Ohio is being sued by McGuire’s family: it amounted to torture. Firing squad, reasons Brattin, is “quick” and something that could be done “at a moment’s notice.” Well, isn’t that novel? They’ll suddenly be executing prisoners on “a moment’s notice” now? Oh, it’s also cheaper, a plus in these economic times. Heck, with the proliferation of gun nuts, they could probably get volunteers and do away with the expense of executioners altogether.

The firing squad is currently an option in two states. Oklahoma still has it on the books as an option but Utah is the only state that still actually executes prisoners that way. But even Utah is phasing it out. Maybe. The drug shortage has several states considering alternatives. A bill similar to Brattin’s has also been introduced in Wyoming.

It’s interesting that these states are so concerned with finding another way of killing prisoners rather than, oh…. not killing them? The GOP, who claim to be pro-life, are falling all over themselves to find a way to take life. Yes, I realize that the people they execute are, usually, murderers and such. But what about the ones who aren’t? What about the innocent men who have been executed? The ratio of non-whites currently on death row is crazily out of balance with the actual population, especially in the South. What is wrong with this picture?

Why stop with firing squads? Here are some other suggestions.

Since the GOP is so set on executions rather than abolishing the death penalty, let’s help them out a bit. Goodness knows, there are so many other ways they could murder people in our name. There are simply scads of ways we could execute prisoners. Instead of moving with the times, let’s drag ourselves back to the Dark Ages, where so many Republicans would prefer us to be. The following list is presented with sarcasm fully engaged.

Here are just a handful of humble suggestions (some are graphic so read with caution) —

• Hanging: Some states still offer this as an option. Done correctly, it is instant and painless. Oh sure, before William Marwood introduced the Long Drop in 1872, there were various mishaps. Strangulation and decapitation made the Short and Standard drops somewhat problematic. But once the weight-to-drop-length formula was applied, things went swimmingly. Hanging is still in use in other primitive countries today, so we have a lot of company.

• Electric Chair: Our uniquely American execution method — it was invented here in the workshop of Thomas Edison during the “War of the Currents” (a rather fascinating story, really, but shows Edison in a bad light so isn’t widely known). It is still used in several states as an alternate to lethal injection. Though why a prisoner would choose to be fried alive is a poser. Nebraska was the last state to use the chair as their sole method of execution, prompted by a state Supreme Court decision that it was “cruel and unusual” punishment. But I guess that really isn’t an issue anymore, is it? So maybe these states will go back to Old Sparky. I’m sure they have him tucked away in a storage room somewhere.

• Fire: There are several execution methods which use fire. All of them are pretty cost-effective, as the heat could be applied to energy creation. It’s a win-win. Among the ways states could use fire to execute people are boiling, burning at the stake (a sentimental favorite) and baking in a brass bull  (you’re welcome, Texas). The problem with any of these methods is, of course, the incredible amount of pain and suffering they create. But, gosh, what do we care? These guys deserve it. Even if they might possibly be innocent.

• Guillotine: Created in France as a more humane way to execute prisoners, the Guillotine is named after its inventor, Doctor Joseph Ignace Guillotin. But the story that he ended up under its blade himself is a myth. Guillotin was actually anti-death penalty and saw his invention as a step towards that goal. The device saw wide use during the French Revolution — something that the current plutocracy might want to keep in mind. The first use of the guillotine was on April 25, 1792 in Paris and the last was September 10, 1977 in Marseilles. We could easily manufacture enough guillotines for every state that still executes prisoners. Doing so would create jobs, too. Another win-win. Vive’ la execution!

• Animals: Using animals to carry out the execution of a condemned prisoner goes way back. Whether it’s an elephant stepping on their head, horses pulling them apart or a pit of hungry lions, crocodiles or sharks chowing down on them, we’ve been getting animals to do our dirty work for ages. Bringing back any of these methods would be relatively inexpensive. A little training, and you have executioners who will work for peanuts. Literally. Oh sure, the PETA folks will raise a stink but the GOP won’t care; they ignore them already.

• Crucifixion: As depicted in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, crucifixion was once very popular (“one cross each”). Between the 6th century BCE and the 4th century CE, it was the go-to method of execution for the Roman empire. Some countries still use it: Burma, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan still crucify people, though rarely. Of course, there will be the inevitable comparisons to Jesus Christ. But, since so many death-row prisoners convert while awaiting execution, they might like to go the same way He did. Yes, it’s slow and painful but why not offer it as an option?

• Crushing: Also known as “pressing,” (or, if you’re fancy, peine forte et dure) this execution method has a long history. From the elephant (see above) to the plank and weights, it was usually used for prisoners who refused to plead or “stood mute.” They would be laid face-up on the ground, a plank placed over them and weights applied. The idea was to get a plea and go from there. Two famous cases  are St. Margaret Clitherow — aka St. Margaret of York —  (1586) and Giles Corey of Salem, Ma (1692). This execution method would only involve a one-time expenditure of a bunch of weights and a crane to move them. Cheap and, multiplying that by the number of states who would use it… more jobs!

• Stoning: Straight out of the Old Testament, this would really suit the GOP’s extreme right-wing. Sure, it’s messy and traditionally involves a crowd of people but I’m sure there would be no problem finding volunteers. Or pay them and, that’s right, more jobs. We may be on to something, here. Just don’t tell them that this is a popular method of execution in Islamic countries.

There are various other methods of execution that could be put into place. Many are very cheap (tossing the prisoner from a great height), some are pretty archaic (scaphism — ew) and others are very slow (immurement). All of these would surely solve the current problem faced by the states who still practice execution. All they need to do is read some history and be creative. They can even create jobs or energy as a happy side-effect. What Republican wouldn’t want to be associated with something so full of win for them?


Yes, I have had a bit of fun with a serious topic. By doing so, I hope the use of the tried-and-true device of satire points up the insanity of execution. Personally, my opinion of the death penalty has undergone some refining since my first debate on the topic in 8th grade. Even then, I was not in favor of it. Now, much older and (I think) wiser, I am haltingly okay with it in certain cases. For me, it must be irrefutable that the condemned is guilty. I want a smoking gun, I want the killer to be found up to his or her elbows in the crime. Nothing less is allowable as far as I’m concerned. And, even then, I’d rather see life imprisonment. For one thing, it’s cheaper.  It also allows for that chance of exoneration. You can’t exonerate a dead man.

The inequality of the application of execution concerns me greatly. I’m not alone. The Innocence Project has exonerated 312 convicted persons since 1989. That number should give us all pause. At least 10 men have been executed with some doubt as to their actual guilt. This is unacceptable in a country that calls itself “civilized.”

The Republican tendency to support the death penalty (though, yes, there are some who do not, just as there are Democrats who do) is in stark contrast with their stated “pro-life” stance. Once cannot call themselves “pro-life” and support killing. These same people who are willing to kill and be killed to save a cluster of cells, are gleeful about state-sponsored murder of adults. I cannot, for the life of me, understand this cognitive dissonance. They say it’s because the “babies” are innocent. Well, so are some of the people we, as a nation, have murdered. If the standard is used for one, it must be applied to the other.

The death penalty is an anachronism. It belongs in museums, as a caution to future generations of how  revenge can be hidden under a veneer of acceptability. This is the perfect time to address the issue again. Perhaps we will see that happen. I certainly hope to see execution abolished in my lifetime.

More AI posts on executions.