Barely Anyone Use Firing Squads, But Utah Wants To

As a solution to the difficulties of obtaining the necessary drugs for lethal injection, Utah is considering bringing back the firing squad as a method of capital punishment. Few countries across the globe still execute prisoners by firing squad, and those that do, including Cuba, China, and the United Arab Emirates, have moved away from it in the past few years. Many countries, especially in Africa, have kept capital punishment by firing squad legal, but haven't carried out an execution in decades. This should be a sign that firing squads are an unpopular form of execution and things are usually unpopular for a reason.

Although firing squad is the main method of capital punishment in Cuba, the nation's last known execution was in 2003. China predominantly used firing squads for a long time, but in recent years has made a move toward lethal injection in order to make executions more humane. The United Arab Emirates executed a Sri Lankan man convicted of murder by firing squad in 2014 and before that, the last firing squad death was in 2011. Here's a list of countries that still have legal firing squads on the books, even though many haven't used it in more than 20 years:

  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Belarus
  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • China
  • Comoros
  • Congo (The Republic of)
  • Cuba
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Laos
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Madagascar
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mongolia
  • Morocco
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Palestinian Authority
  • Qatar
  • Russia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Korea
  • Syria
  • Taiwan
  • Tajikistan
  • Tunisia
  • Uganda
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States of America
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen

Firing squads have been historically viewed as a military death, not a criminal death. European countries abolished capital punishment altogether when the EU established it as a condition of membership in 1998 and most haven't used firing squads since the 19th century, if ever.

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The Utah House of Representatives passed the bill that would reinstate the firing squad if the drugs needed for lethal injection weren't available, but the law still needs to go through the state Senate and the governor's desk before becoming a reality. Utah was the first state to use firing squads as its main method of capital punishment, beginning in 1907. The only other state to do so was Nevada in 1917, but the state soon switched to lethal gas. The state initially outlawed the method of capital punishment in 2004, making exceptions for current death row inmates who had already chosen the firing squad for their execution.

Oklahoma is currently the only state that allows the use of a firing squad, but only if other methods are deemed unconstitutional. Wyoming is trying to pass a bill similar to Utah's that would allow the use of firing squads as an alternative method, but the inmate would have to be unconscious before they're shot. However, it's not a pressing issue for Wyoming because its death row is currently empty. All states with legal capital punishment made lethal injection their primary method by 2009 in order to eliminate the disturbing images that other forms of executions can produce.

It's debatable whether or not firing squads are more or less humane than lethal injection, but nevertheless, it's a globally uncommon practice. If Utah resurrects the archaic practice, it will be one of the only places in the world where prisoners are executed this way.

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