The Death Penalty

These days, as multiple by deaths by shooting become more and more frequent, I hear more and more calls to resort to the death penalty to stop mass shootings. The reasons to oppose putting people to death remain persuasive to me.

First of all, executions are irreversible. If we err in convicting a person—which we often do—we can’t bring them back to life if we have punished them by taking their life.

Second, there is plenty of evidence that executions are often used in a disproportional manner against the poor, minorities, and members of racial, ethnic, political and religious groups. And again, once inflicted, the death penalty can’t be withdrawn.

Third, it doesnt deter killers. The General Assembly of the United Nations put it succinctly: “There is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty” (UNGA Resolution 65/206).

Fourth, the death penalty is incompatible with human rights and human dignity. It violates the right to life which us the most basic of all human rights.

I note that non-firearm weapons are used for only one-quarter of all homicides in the United States. Three-quarters of all homicides use guns. So a more effective measure to reduce homicides would be to reduce the number of guns in the hands of American citizens. As the National Library of Medicine, puts it, “We observed a robust correlation between higher levels of gun ownership and higher firearm homicide rates. Although we could not determine causation, we found that states with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides.” The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says “a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries . . . Where there are more guns there is more homicide.”

So the way to reduce killings is not to impose the death penalty but to reduce the number of guns in the hands of the population. We do that by abolishing the Second Amendment to the Constitution (which we interpret to mean that there will be no limits on gun ownership), outlawing firearm ownership (with exceptions), and buying back the weapons people now have.

It’s long since time to move forward.

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