The Last American Execution by Firing Squad Was in 2010
If there is one thing humans have been especially good at throughout history, it's coming up with increasingly more efficient ways to execute people. As time progressed, crucifixion gave way to the guillotine, the guillotine gave way to hanging, hanging gave way to the firing squad, and the firing squad gave way to the electric chair. In recent decades, Old Sparky has lost out to chemical injection as the most popular method of removing the most unsociable of us from the mortal realm. It's just so much more civilized to treat it like a medical procedure, rather than, say, straight up shooting a dude.
Dennis Donohue/iStock/Getty Images
Though the idea of a win-and-you're-free deathmatch with a bear has been steadily gaining support.
But Actually ...
Despite the forward march of execution technology, it's only been about four years since the last firing squad execution was carried out in America.
In Utah, those sentenced to the death penalty had their choice of execution method from a list of options (you can't choose "be kicked into a jet engine by Steven Seagal"). This tradition technically ended in 2004, when the firing squad was officially outlawed in favor of lethal injection as the go-to technique for reducing the population of death row, but a caveat in the rule stated that anyone who received a death sentence before then was still permitted to choose to go out in a hail of gunfire.
It just has a certain flair to it, on top of giving you a good setup for your last words.
Double murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner, who was sentenced to death for murdering a lawyer while trying to escape trial for a previous murder, was the only guy since that ruling to decide that being shot to death was somehow better than dying peacefully in his sleep. And so, after sitting on death row for 25 years, Gardner was strapped to a chair and had a target painted over his heart, and five officers who volunteered to be a part of history were equipped with old school .30 caliber Winchesters. In line with tradition, one was loaded with blanks so that none of them could feel guilty (or on the other hand, brag) about being the one who fired the kill shot.