The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 22, 2014

Missouri legislator proposes bringing back firing squads

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Missouri lawmaker has proposed executing criminals on death row with a five-person firing squad.

Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, introduced a bill last week that would make firing squads a legal means of execution in the state, along with lethal gas and lethal injection. The bill comes as the debate over how — or if — the state should move forward with executions rolls on.

In an interview Wednesday, Brattin said his research led him to conclude that a firing squad is actually one of the “most humane” and quickest ways to move forward with executions, especially if the current practice of lethal injection is restricted.

“The blunt trauma caused by that many shots — it’s an instantaneous death,” he said. “It’s not electrocution where you’re cooked inside out, or heads being decapitated by hanging.”

The bill, HB 1470, has been filed and read into the House journal but has not been referred to a legislative committee, a necessary procedural step for the bill to make its way to debate by the full House.

Brattin said the legislation is about being proactive and finding an alternative to lethal injection.

“I see the writing on the wall and what’s going to happen,” he said. “Let’s come up with a backup plan.”

Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, said that while he appreciates where Brattin is coming from in, he does have some concerns.

“When you read some of the studies, they show that when you look at the time it takes death to set in with lethal injection versus the gas chamber versus firing squad, firing squad is instantaneous,” he said. “I don’t know how far it is going to go. I’ve got some concerns over the morbidity.”

Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, said she opposes the death penalty and called it “horrendous” and “barbaric” that someone would suggest using a firing squad. She said the state should consider eliminating the death penalty altogether.

“Maybe we should be looking at the death penalty,” she said. “Not everybody has the chance to go through the DNA procedures. There are all kinds of backlogged court cases of people who should not be sitting on death row. Is that really what we want to do as Missouri, having five people standing there shooting at someone?”

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