This article reminded me of something I felt was weird for a long time. In the article, it states that:
Why’s that such a big issue? It seems that since these men had been chosen or volunteered for the job, killing someone isn’t that big of an issue. After all, difficulty aside, they don’t have multiple levers for electric chairs so that the executioner doesn’t know if he’s the one pulling the real lever, or placebos in lethal injections. Why’s a firing squad so special?
Plus, couldn’t they rig a setup where one guy pulls a lever and 4 guns go off at the same time? I’m sure the executioner won’t have that problem
It’s tradition. The reason for the tradition is right there in the excerpt you quoted. Is it logical? Maybe not. Since I’ve never been part of a firing squad I don’t know if it’s a psychologically useful coping mechanism. I have a vague memory of hearing about an instance where all the men on the firing squad had live ammo (someone forgot to put a blank in one of the rifles) and the shooters were upset, but I’m not sure I can find any details based on such a vague recollection.
I think Utah is the only U.S. state that still does executions by firing squad, and they may allow hangings as well. And even they are doing away with the firing squad - they banned in 2004, but it sounds like people who were already on death row at the time of the ban are still allowed to opt for it.
I’m not sure how effective the blank would be for that purpose, anyway. I’ve never been on a firing squad, but I have a feeling I’d know where my round hit. Also think I’d notice if I fired a blank. Seems like the sound/feel would be off slightly…
Oak, I’ve never fired a blank from a rifle, but I have from a handgun. The feel is slightly off. But, as was pointed out above, the point is to let people engage in denial, so it needn’t have a strong factual basis.
“Five anonymous marksmen will use matching .30-caliber rifles, standing behind a wall cut with five gunports. One of the rifles will be an “ineffective” round, similar to a blank, which delivers the same recoil as a live round. That ensures none of the riflemen will know who delivered the fatal shot.”
I think you’ve nailed it. Traditionally, firing squads weren’t professional executioners - they were ordinary soldiers who pulled really crappy duty. Killing someone from your own side, standing there tied to a post, requires massive amounts of self-justification.
I only heard today about the scheduled execution of Ronnie Lee Gardener in Utah in about four hours from now. NPR mentioned a .30-30 rifle. Now, there are lots of rifles chambered for .30-30, but I think the two most common are the late Winchester Model 94 and the Marlin 336. I have a Model 94, and it kicks like a mule.
I know there are – or were – wooden ‘blanks’ where the wooden projectile will disintegrate right out of the muzzle. I wonder if these wooden bullets would be visible to the shooter as they fly apart? The other thing I wonder about is mass. Wouldn’t an ‘ineffective round’ have a projectile that is much lighter than a jacketed lead bullet? And if so, how does it mimic recoil with which the shooter is probably very familiar?
I learned about this on a news story they did on the execution last night. I had always thought it was the other way around - that all the guns contained blanks, and that there was only one gun containing a live round. Having only one blank would increase the odds that you yourself fired a fatal shot.