Idaho is moving to become the fifth state in the nation to allow death by firing squad. Today (March 20), the state legislature approved a bill with a veto-proof majority that would reinstate the execution method in The Gem State.
Mississippi, Utah, Oklahoma, and South Carolina are the only other states that currently have laws on the books allowing firing squads if no other forms of ending life are available. One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Bruce Skaug, explained that the proposal arose out of necessity, as Idaho is currently unable to secure the drugs needed for lethal injections. Idaho previously had a firing squad option, but it was removed from state law in 2009 after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a commonly used procedure of injection as the go-to approach.
When the Idaho Senate was debating the bill, many argued that there had to be a better way. Sen. Melissa Wintrow, for example, believed that it was a cruel form of executing someone and that alternatives are possible. “I’m not arguing justice, I’m arguing how we bring justice about. And we, as a state, need to practice some type of restraint,” she said, according to KTVB. Another member, Sen. Dan Foreman, claimed it was a “horror show” for all those involved, including those who fire the guns.
Proponents of the bill asserted that it wasn’t about capital punishment, but the state’s ability to carry out the law to the fullest extent. “We are looking at an alternative method to carry out our current policy. That is all we are being asked,” Sen. Abby Lee stated. Sen. Ben Adams, meanwhile, confessed that while he was uncomfortable with the government being in charge of ending people’s lives, supporting the death penalty gives victims and the general public more trust in the justice system. “There aren’t a lot of dignified ways to die,” he admitted.
Idaho has never executed someone by firing squad in the past. But, the issue came about after Gerald Pizzuto, an inmate who was set to receive the lethal injection last year, avoided the punishment because the Idaho Department of Corrections didn’t have the drugs needed to carry out the act.
The bill now heads to Gov. Brad Little’s desk for his signature.