Mississippi's Death Penalty Bill Would DESTROY What Makes Us Human

Photo: florida memory
firing squad

WE are the ones who will be hurt by this.

While commuting home last night with my boyfriend, he asked me a very interesting question. Well, interesting and alarming. “Do you think that there will start being real fistfights in Congress?”

I wanted to say no, that our country was civilized and humane, that we solved things with words.

But then I really thought about the simmering resentment and anger that’s been brewing since before the election, and I had to think differently: America is coming dangerously close to losing what makes us special — our civility.

Of the 33 states in this country that have the death penalty, lethal injection is the primary method in which executions are carried out. This continues to be true, even in the face of mass shortages of the drugs used to put convicted felons to death. 

In Oklahoma and Utah, death by firing squad is still technically legal, but it’s more of a legal holdover than anything else.

The last time a man was killed by firing squad was in 2010. Convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner (pictured below) requested the firing squad because he felt it was more in keeping with Mormon beliefs.

Even though the choice of death was his own, it caused tremendous controversy at the time, for obvious reasons, chief among them the fact that we as a people believe ourselves more civilized than that manner of execution would make us seem.


The eight other states that have alternative means of execution, such as hanging or the gas chamber, don't use them as their primary method of execution. That’s because their continued existence is more of a legal oversight than anything else (like how in Carmel, New York it is still technically illegal to eat ice cream on the sidewalk). 

That’s what makes the new law introduced in Mississippi so disgusting.

Under House Bill 636, firing squad, electrocution and gas chambers will be added as modes of execution in cases where lethal injection may be blocked.

The thinking here: The lack of the right drugs for lethal injection is causing delays that leave prisoners on Death Row for decades. 

Now, I’m all for efficiency, but as a taxpayer, I have zero problem continuing to pay for a prisoner’s upkeep if the alternative is something as cruel and senseless as the violent modes of death being introduced by this bill. 

We’re living in a scary time, one of serious upheaval.

Our president is frequently compared to Adolf Hitler, who famously perpetrated a genocide of the Jewish people using gas chambers to help hurry things along.

Does overcrowding in Mississippi prisons really merit the gassing of human beings? 


I understand that the death penalty itself is a complicated and controversial issue.

Even as I write this, I can hear someone saying “if we’re going to be killing them anyway how does the way we kill them matter?”

I understand that, to one degree or another, but I do think there’s a humane way to do it that doesn't reduce us from human beings to animals. 

We’ve so long prided ourselves in this country of being civilized, in doing the right thing whenever possible. For some (like me) the election of Donald Trump began the very real erosion of that belief.

Lest we forget, one of Trump's favorite general, James Mattis, had no problem sharing that “it's fun to shoot some people.”

While people like that exist, I think they are the exception and not the rule.

I think we can be better than that, that we SHOULD be better than that. 

Maybe instead of passing this bill, Mississippi legislators should be examining what's causing shortages of the drugs used for humane executions instead of reconciling themselves to losing part of what makes them human.