Lawmakers in the state of Mississippi have proposed a bill to bring back the firing squad, electric chair, and the gas chamber as methods of execution in the case that a court would block the use of lethal injection drugs. This may sound a bit shocking, but it isn’t actually as out of the ordinary as one might think. These are each still used in certain states throughout the U.S. Eight states that have the electric chair as an option, five have the gas chamber, and three have hanging. Utah and Oklahoma are currently the only two states who still have the firing squad as an option.
In the more than thirty states who have some form of a death penalty, lethal injection is the primary method in each of them. Various methods of capital punishment have been used throughout Mississippi’s history. Hanging was used until 1940. From 1940 through 1952, the primary method was the electric chair. In 1954, a gas chamber was installed and would not be removed as an option until 1998. The last time the state executed anyone was in 2012. However, there are currently 47 people sitting on death row. Some of which have been there for decades.
The purpose of House Bill 638 is to “revise the methods by which the death penalty may be carried out.” The only legally approved method of administering the death penalty in the state is by lethal injection. However, due to lack of pharmaceutical companies willing to supply the drug for the purpose of capital punishments, the state hasn’t had access to the drugs they once used for quite awhile. Which presents an array of issues.
For example, many prisons in different states have had to find alternative suppliers of the drugs. Leading to instances such as the one in Arkansas in July of 2014, where a normally ten minute execution ended up taking two hours. Lethal injection is typically viewed as a most humane method of execution (if such a thing exists), but there are some interesting things to note.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, it is estimated that more than three percent (276 of 8,776) of the procedures in the 120 years between 1890 and 2010 went wrong in some way and the person didn’t immediately die. Lethal injection has by far the highest rate (7.12%) of botched executions. Firing squads, on the other hand, have a rate of zero percent.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves are both supporters of the death penalty and are due to review the House bill in-depth before assigning it to a Senate committee and signing it into law.