Wyoming Firing Squad: Lawmaker’s Execution Proposal Won’t Be Considered

    February 11, 2014

Wyoming lawmaker Bruce Burns sponsored a bill to make death by firing squad an option in his state, but the state senate voted against considering the bill on Tuesday. Burns proposed this alternate method to carry out a capital punishment sentence last month. Now that the firing squad option is off the table in Wyoming, Missouri is the only other state trying to pass this method of execution.

Capital punishment is legal in 32 states, with lethal injection being the most common method of executing a death row inmate. A few other states have backup execution options, should the drugs needed to carry out lethal injection be unavailable, should legal issues arise or should an inmate request at alternate method of death. Death by hanging, electrocution and the gas chamber are options in other states, and two states have death by firing squad as an option–Oklahoma and Utah.

Burns, a state senator from Sheridan, sought to make death by firing squad an option in Wyoming since the state doesn’t currently have a gas chamber, which is their backup option. “The state of Wyoming doesn’t have a gas chamber currently, an operating gas chamber, so the procedure and expense to build one would be impractical to me,” Burns said.

“One of the reasons I chose firing squad as opposed to any other form of execution is because frankly it’s one of the cheapest for the state,” Burns said. “The expense of building a gas chamber I think would be prohibitive when you consider how many people would be executed by it, and even the cost of gallows.”

Not only does Burns consider the costs involved in building a gas chamber to be wasteful, the senator also thinks that a gas chamber is cruel and unusual punishment. “I consider frankly the gas chamber to be cruel and unusual, so I went with firing squad because they also have it in Utah,” Burns said.

After Burns proposed the bill, the Wyoming senate voted against considering it 17 to 13. Burns needed two-thirds of the vote to have the bill considered. Since Wyoming has only executed one inmate since 1992 and has only one inmate on death row right now, it isn’t likely that the issue of the state not having a backup to lethal injection will arise anytime soon.

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