Mississippi lawmakers are asking the wrong questions about the death penalty

Posted on Apr 11 2016 - 7:01am by Holly Baer

On Good Friday, Christians recognize the execution and death of their savior. This Good Friday, Mississippi lawmakers voted to bring back execution by firing squads.

For years, the United States has been forced to face the dwindling supply of sodium thiopental, one of the drugs necessary for a safe, “humane” execution. Only one company in the United States makes it, and they’ve recently stopped. Foreign nations have stopped selling the drug to the United States to pressure them to abolish the death penalty.

Because of this shortage, there have been several botched executions because of untested, unapproved drug cocktails. Rather than stopping executions, the Mississippi House has approved using death by firing squad as an alternative to lethal injection.

Illustration: Jake Thrasher

Illustration: Jake Thrasher

We aren’t the only state that supports the firing squad. The last person killed by firing squad was Ronnie Lee Gardner in Utah in June 2010.

Death by firing squad is a favorite of fascist regimes attempting to silence dissenters. It has no place in the U.S. But firing squads aren’t the only problem here. There is no humane way to kill someone. Just as murder is immoral, the taking of someone’s life by the hand of the government is inherently immoral and inhumane.

Most Americans support capital punishment. In 2013, a Gallup poll showed 63 percent of Americans supported the death penalty, despite the fact that it is more expensive than life in prison, it doesn’t decrease violent crimes and innocent people die.

According to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, 1,414 people have been executed since 1976, 156 people have been exonerated before death. This means one out of every 10 people on death row have eventually been proven innocent. This is before considering the number of innocent people who were executed and exonerated after death—or innocent people whose innocence was never proven.

Instead of focusing on reforming our justice system to minimize innocent deaths, our state legislature is—once again—focused on finding solutions for unimportant problems. Fortunately, lack of lethal injection drugs and lengthy appeal periods have limited the number of executions in the state. No one has died by execution in Mississippi since 2012.

Only one European country, Belarus, has the death penalty. In the Americas, 19 countries have the death penalty but only two countries — the U.S. and Saint Kitts & Nevis — execute people.

Most of the world has come to recognize capital punishment as an enemy to human rights. Instead of catching up to the rest of the world, various state lawmakers have doubled down and said, “If we don’t have the drugs, we’ve got the bullets.”

And those of us who don’t support the barbaric slaughter of our fellow Americans? We sit, sometimes silently, sometimes with raucous shouting, and hope for a change.

Holly Baer is a senior religious studies major from Flowood.