- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Idaho Senate approved a state House of Representatives bill Monday allowing the use of a firing squad to execute a prisoner only when lethal injection drugs are not available.

As it stands, there have already been postponements of executions in the state due to the dearth of drugs. Pharmaceutical companies have become less willing to let their products be used to take life instead of saving it, leaving states to resort to other execution options.

Mississippi, Utah, Oklahoma and South Carolina also allow firing squads if lethal injection is unavailable, with Utah being the last to use a firing squad in a 2010 execution.

Idaho will join them when Republican Gov. Brad Little signs the veto-proof bill.

Federal executions, which also have the option of using a firing squad, have been stayed by an indefinite moratorium imposed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in 2021.

The creation or retrofitting of a chamber to use for a firing squad will cost around $750,000, according to the Idaho bill’s statement of purpose. The law will take effect July 1.

Opinions were split amid the Legislature.

State Rep. Bruce Skaug, Nampa Republican, told an Idaho Senate panel last week, “There needs to be retribution as part of our sentencing. That’s what keeps me or some other people from taking vengeance on our own if we suffer in the family a murder, because we know the system will bring us justice,” according to the Idaho Statesman newspaper.

State Sen. Dan Foreman, Moscow Republican and retired police officer and Air Force veteran, was against the measure.

“I’ve seen the aftermath of shootings, and it’s psychologically damaging to anybody who witnesses it. The use of the firing squad is, in my opinion, beneath the dignity of the state of Idaho,” he said in a state Senate hearing Monday.

Corrections experts note that firing squads in particular may be morally and psychologically difficult to perform.

“My thoughts go to staff members that may have to carry out something, per law, that looks like putting someone to death. That is nothing I would assume any correctional director would take lightly, asking someone/ordering someone to do that,” Kevin Kempf, former head of the Idaho Department of Corrections and current executive director of the nationwide Correctional Leaders Association, told The Associated Press.

• Brad Matthews can be reached at bmatthews@washingtontimes.com.

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