Missouri lawmakers introduce legislation to add firing squad to options for capital punishment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A Missouri state lawmaker is proposing legislation that would introduce a firing squad as an option for capital punishment in the state.

House Bill 1470 was introduced Thursday by bill sponsor, Representative Rick Brattin (R).  

Sixty-nine inmates have been to put to death since the death penalty was reinstated in 1988, according to the Department of Corrections.

The 84th General Assembly of the Missouri legislature approved the change in the statute, which allowed the punishment by either means of lethal injection or lethal gas – which hasn't been used in the state since 1965.

But HB 1470 would add death by firing squad as another option.

"At first, it's like you're jumping back to 1850," Brattin said, admitting that the bill sounds farfetched. "I believe that it's almost more inhumane to kill somebody through lethal injection. Strapping them down like they are a dog, watching them be a pin cushion and then watching the serum go into their veins. That seems pretty cruel to me."

"If the judgment of death is to be carried out by firing squad, the director of the 9 department of corrections shall select a five-person firing squad consisting of licensed peace officers," the bill says.

After introducing the bill Thursday, constituents have already started writing Brattin about it.

One letter read in part:

"I am the mother of a 24 year old murdered daughter in Lake Saint Louis.  I just wanted to thank you so much for submitting HB1470 as I believe it could stop some of the last minute appeals."

When asked if he believes this brings justice for families of victims, he added it gives them "closure."

"These people sit on death row and appeal it, time and time and time again," he said.

The family of an Ohio death row inmate, Dennis McGuire, announced a lawsuit after the man's Thursday execution which was described as "a failed, agonizing experiment."

Missouri has come under scrutiny after delaying executions like that of convicted killer Allen Nicklasson, over the use of the drug Propofol.

Now there are also questions being raised about where the state is currently getting execution drugs and Representative John Rizzo wants a yearlong stoppage of executions and an investigation into where the drugs are coming from.   

Lawmakers in Wyoming are also introducing similar legislation and Utah is known for having used the method. In 2010, convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner was killed by a firing squad.

Sean O'Brien, a UMKC law professor, disagrees with the idea altogether.

"There's no full proof method of execution," he said. "Every form of execution we have ever invented is capable of being botched."

Brattin maintains that a firing squad is also cheaper.

"It's over a hundred thousand dollars to administer a lethal injection versus if were to do a firing squad, it would be pennies on the dollar," he said.

The bill will be heard by the corrections committee but a date has not been set.

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