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Idaho Lawmakers Pass Bill To Reintroduce Firing Squad

Chris Agee
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States that allow capital punishment have encountered significant setbacks in recent years due to a shortage of drugs used in lethal injections, which prompted Idaho lawmakers to reintroduce an execution method from the history books.

Instead of indefinitely curtailing the execution of death row inmates, legislators passed a bill this week that would allow a firing squad to carry out the death penalty if authorities cannot obtain the lethal injection cocktail within five days after the issuance of a death warrant. 

Drug shortages have caused two delays in the planned execution of Gerald Pizzuto, who was convicted and sentenced to death for a double murder in 1985.


State Rep. Bruce Skaug, a Republican, introduced House Bill 186 and explained why he believes it was able to pass through both chambers of the Idaho legislature on the strength of a veto-proof majority.

“Upon signature of the governor, the state may now more likely carry out justice, as determined by our judicial system, against those who have committed first-degree murder,” he said. “This is an important bill for victims, their families, and the rule of law.”

Skaug noted that the high-profile case involving Bryan Kohberger, who is accused of killing four University of Idaho students in November, was discussed during the legislative debate that resulted in his bill’s passage. 

Assuming the bill is ultimately enacted, Idaho would become the fifth state — along with Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah — to allow firing squad executions. Only three individuals have been executed in such a manner nationwide since 1976, though. 


While Skaug and supporters of the bill believe it represents a step toward enforcing court-imposed sentences, not everyone is on board. 

GOP state Sen. Dan Forman, for example, shares a common concern for the emotional well-being of executioners, witnesses, and those tasked with cleaning up the scene.

“I’ve seen the aftermath of shootings, and it’s psychologically damaging to anybody who witnesses it,” he said. “The use of the firing squad is, in my opinion, beneath the dignity of the state of Idaho.”

Josh Tewalt, the director of the Idaho Department of Correction, said he would object to asking his staff to participate in a firing squad. 

Correctional Leaders Association Kevin Kempf expressed similar misgivings, explaining that his “thoughts go to staff members that may have to carry out something, per law, that looks like putting someone to death,” adding that he does not believe giving the order to take part in a firing squad is something that “any correctional director would take lightly.”