In praise of firing squads

I oppose the death penalty, but if countries are going to impose it, then the firing squad is a pretty decent method. It’s rapid and painless enough not to be sick torture, but it’s also brutal enough to remind everyone concerned that they are, actually, violently and prematurely ending a life.

Which is good, because that’s what the death penalty involves, whether or not you personally support it. You’re either saying “it is right for the state to violently and prematurely end this person’s life for the good of society/justice”, or you are saying “it is not right for the state to violently and prematurely end people’s lives”.

Shooting – as with UK-style hanging by the days of Albert Pierrepont – doesn’t try and cover up the fact that a human being is being violently killed, whilst also not revelling in the person’s suffering (unlike, say, crucifixion or stoning). Lethal injections and gas chambers, by removing the element of violence and disguising the taking of a life as a medical or scientific procedure, are no more humane than shooting or hanging – but far more dishonest and hypocritical.

If firing squads turn your stomach because they involve killing a person, then that’s all to the good. But don’t kid yourself that any of the other methods of execution are any better.

Well, apart from the one administered to Arthur Charles Herbert Runcie MacAdam Jarrett (unbelievably, not available on YouTube), of course.

6 thoughts on “In praise of firing squads”

  1. The most unsettling part of the story is this:

    Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff used the Twitter micro-blogging site to say he had given the go-ahead for execution.

    "May God grant him the mercy he denied his victims," Mr Shurtleff tweeted.

    Death by fucking Twitter?

  2. Could be worse: could be an online poll: "hanging / shooting / lethal injection / crucifixion". And I bet b3ta would rig it for 'cruxifiction'.

  3. Well, I don't think someone who isn't willing to bolt-gun a cow is morally entitled to eat meat. I've shot a sheep, which I reckon counts.

    Squeamishness and moral cowardice aren't the same thing, but – especially in squeamish people who nonetheless support bloody policies – there's a strong correlation.

  4. Well, I don’t think someone who isn’t willing to bolt-gun a cow is morally entitled to eat meat.

    Well, steady on. There are a lot of things that someone might not be willing to do personally, because they find them distasteful, but which they still think should be done by someone; does that necessarily make them a bad person? I wouldn't want to spend my working life designing integrated circuits or teaching the law of landlord and tenant, but I still think someone should do these things in order that the society I enjoy living in should continue to run properly.

  5. I take your point, but I'm not sure your analogies work. In order to bolt-gun a cow, you have to turn up at an abattoir and receive two hours of training; in order to design ICs or teach property law, you have to spend several years studying as well as having some natural aptitude for the subject.

    Perhaps a fairer analogy would be "I like having a functional sewage system, but I wouldn't be up for spending eight hours a day wading around in shit". And I'm not sure that is a reasonable viewpoint, from a Jesus/Kant 'universalisable principle' point of view.

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