A lawmaker in the U.S. is proposing the use of firing squads to execute condemned inmates if constitutional problems or other issues ever prevent his state from using lethal injection.
Wyoming state Sen. Bruce Burns, a Republican, said Monday that state law currently calls for using a gas chamber if lethal injection is unavailable.
"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," said Burns, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"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. He's introduced the bill for consideration in the legislative session that starts Feb. 10.
"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
Burns said his bill addresses this issue because a number of states are running short of the chemicals used for lethal injection, largely because companies have stopped selling the drugs to prisons.
Wyoming, a sparsely populated western state, has only one inmate on death row and last executed an inmate in 1992.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the national Death Penalty Information Center, said Monday he believes Wyoming could face constitutional challenges if it tried to use the firing squad as its only method of execution.
Dieter said Utah has offered inmates the choice of being executed by firing squad but said the state is phasing out the punishment. He said mandating the use of the firing squad if lethal injection were unavailable, as Burns seeks to do, would be a different matter.
"That I think would raise concerns in the federal courts, perhaps the state courts, about whether an unusual, perhaps a cruel and unusual punishment, is being inflicted," Dieter said.
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