The Return of the Firing Squad, Explained

A man dies by firing squad in Cuba in 1935.(Photo by KEYSTONE-FRANCE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

The Idaho Senate approved a bill Monday reinstating the firing squad as a backup option for executions when lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

Like South Carolina—which approved electrocution and the firing squad as options in 2021 before being stopped by a state judge last year—Idaho has never actually executed anyone by firing squad, even though it kept the option on the books as a backup until 2009. The new law still needs the signature of Gov. Brad Little to become law, but it passed the legislature with a veto-proof majority.

Although it has historically been one of the most common methods of execution in the world, in the United States the firing squad has rarely been used outside the military: An expert witness in the South Carolina case found only 34 instances nationwide since 1900.

What prompted Idaho’s legislation?

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