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Apr 7, 2023

The Firing Squad is Back and Idaho’s Got It!

Who says there are no men of vision left?

By Ed Goldman

Idaho’s Governor Brad Little (of whom it can be said “Little is known”) has given the thumbs-up for the state to use firing squads as a backup to carry out executions when it just can’t get its hands on the drugs needed to administer lethal injections.

I’m presuming this would be the execution of convicted criminals—not just drivers who cut you off on the freeway and make you miss your off-ramp, which I believe is considered a capital offense in Southern California. 

Edgy Cartoon

Mourning becomes electric

But guns instead of injections? Weren’t we told as kids to never accept any medical substitutes? 

And does this mean a firing squad is just the generic version of lethal drugs, like the one Alabama has allegedly concocted but not yet used, according to Time Magazine: a nitrogen gas that causes hypoxia, which prevents oxygen from working its bodily magic?

To save money, my mom used to buy generic meds when we were kids. Instead of Pepto Bismol we were given something like “Thrifty Bismol” since stores were often allowed to attach their own names to off-brand products. 

Had the trend continued we might have had Costco-nase for allergy sufferers, Walmart Brothers cough drops and JC Pennyscillin to combat syphilis. (I should add that Thrifty Bismol is now Rite-Aid Bismol. Would hate to lose that Pulitzer nomination for such a small transgression.)

But let’s consider the firing squad, allegedly one of the more humane forms of exterminating someone. 

I guess the argument is that it’s the only form of execution that mandates a condemned person be offered a blindfold and/or a cigarette. I always felt that I’d refuse the blindfold so I could make innocent-lamb faces at the shooters to make them feel guilty. But I’d definitely accept the cigarette, provided I’d first made a deal with the American Lung Association to let it use video of my execution to teach youngsters that smoking even one cigarette can prove fatal. The association’s fee would put cash in my estate. Probably the only cash in my estate.

Let me state right now that I’m one of those people who’s in favor of the death penalty, despite having so-so woke creds. Opponents have long said that executing a killer doesn’t serve as a deterrent, to which I always respond, “It’ll deter this killer.”

Debate continues about whether different means of execution constitute cruel and unusual punishment. But I don’t think there’s a single way of making someone die that isn’t at least “cruel.” “Unusual” is when it can actually happen within a decade. 

For example, as recently as three years ago, “an average of 227 months elapsed between sentencing and execution for inmates on death row in the United States,” according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C. (And wouldn’t you like to work there? I wonder what’s on the Christmas Party video each year.)

As you know, in addition to death-by-firing squad, other forms of capital punishment in America have included hanging (outlawed by the Supreme Court in 1972), the electric chair and the gas chamber. But I think there are at least five other ways to accomplish the same goal, and at a much lower cost:

  1. Force a perp to watch all of the films of Jean-Luc Godard in their original French gibberish.
  2. Make a perp stand in line behind 15 customers at Starbucks, all ordering specialty drinks and all wanting to first discuss them with the barista. At about the two-hour mark, he or she will gladly run out of the store into oncoming rush-hour traffic.
  1. Tell perps they’ll be set free if they can sing the second verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” or properly pronounce “recidivism.” If not, it’s back to watching the Godard films.
  2. Tell perps that freedom awaits if they can sit through a day of C-Span and then explain how the U.S. government manages to work. If they can, they may have an insanity defense not heretofore exercised. 
  3. Ask the condemned if they can come up with a funnier opening joke than today’s: “Idaho’s Governor Brad Little (of whom it can be said ‘Little is known’).” If they can’t, they don’t deserve to live and I’d be happy to provide the state with a Starbucks gift card.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).