Firing Squad is the best form of capital punishment
All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.
With 3 votes and 3 points ahead, the winner is ...
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- Open voting
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- Four points
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"Best" will be defined on basic pro and con analysis. While other execution types shall be discussed for comparison, our two methods will be the only under consideration for "best".
Round 1: Summary of our proposed form of capital punishment and outline of Round 2 main points.
Round 2: Explanation of why there is a need for reform plus opening arguments(can include pre-rebuttals, but no rebuttals).
Round 3: Rebuttals/Further Arguments
Round 4: Rebuttals/Closing(no new arguments)
As he states, and as I agree, we need a better system of capital punishment. I will get into the criteria that should define what the technique we use should be momentarily, though first, I will introduce my technique.
My chosen method is Nitrogen Asphyxiation.
To be clear, this will function in one of two ways depending on the facilities available. Either the condemned will be strapped to a chair and have a mask affixed to their face that feeds pure nitrogen gas into their lungs upon inhalation, or available chambers will be filled with this same gas, resulting in suffocation. Early efforts at this will require medical and engineering personnel on site to ensure the uninhibited flow of nitrogen gas and to monitor patient response. After this has been repeated several times without incident, prison staff may administer this method following protocols that have been clearly established during this period.
For the next round, I will begin by comparing my method to commonly (and uncommonly) used methods, including lethal injection, and establish what makes a poor method of capital punishment. These will be based on the following criteria:
1. The degree to which the method causes the condemned pain and suffering
2. The degree to which suffering is felt by those administering the punishment
3. How successful the method is at ending the life of the condemned
4. How expensive the method is
5. How difficult it is to apply the method consistently
Needless to say, I believe my analysis of these points will show that my method outstrips his in improving upon executions, though I will state outright that I believe both of our methods would be improvements.
Looking forward to a good debate, and I hope anyone reading this is as well!
Onto the points.
Cross-apply my arguments about the degree to which each technique is historically proven. Pro fails to mention just how few FS executions have been, which throws his “0% failure rate” into a problematic context. There simply aren’t enough FS executions to justify a claim that a very limited number of failures (meaning instances where the condemned dies painlessly within 30 seconds, I’ve cited one such failure ) portends no future failures, nor is there a clear and well-established protocol (in the US or elsewhere) that has received enough testing to warrant such a claim. There are simply too few instances of this execution being used over too long a stretch of time.
4. Availability of Tools
5. Availability of Personnel
6. Prisoner Choice
This debate essentially breaks down to two issues: between FS and NA, which is more feasible and is more beneficial?
Which method is more likely to stand the test of time? Both our methods are cheap, so this comes down to public backlash.
Pro wants you to believe that that public backlash will stop the sale of nitrogen gas canisters to prisons. His only warrant is that they did it with LI drugs. Two concessions belie this comparison. One, there is a far larger availability of producers of nitrogen gas, meaning that far more companies would have to succumb to public pressure. Two, the specific uses of nitrogen gas: medicine, cooking and welding. These are all clearly important in a range of industries, including prisons. Meanwhile, LI drugs have singular purposes. Sodium thiopental is an anesthetic, regardless of where it’s used, including LI. Prisons can claim any number of purposes for nitrogen. Nitrogen gas will continue to flow into prisons.
Lobbying Congress, on the other hand, can be effective. Pro argues that the public is already predisposed against gas chambers, failing to note that a lot of that negative response has to do with the gasses used and not the physical implements involved. Pro drops the preponderance of data on the effects of nitrogen gas on the human body (including lethality without pain), so his claims that the condemned are being treated like guinea pigs don’t hold up. Together, these distinguish NA from previous methods and invite a new public perspective.
Pro drops the poll results against the firing squad. Pro really wants you to believe that a positive trend will reverse these; however, he’s not waiting several years before implementing this. He wants it now. Now, the numbers are strongly against FS. Now, a significant majority view it as cruel and unusual. He provides no reason why his setup will alter public perception, so he is guaranteed to implement his capital punishment in a US that is openly hostile to it. That practically guarantees a tidal wave of backlash, striking down his method.
1. Cruelty to the condemned
What makes the best method is one that is, essentially, botch-proof. No matter how perfect a method may seem, different types of implementation and mistakes will lead to botches. Things will go wrong. I have provided evidence that botches exist for FS and, much as Pro’s methods may reduce their number, it is still fallible. I accept that NA can be botched. So, what do those botches look like for our two cases?
We begin with NA. At worst, a mask is damaged and a new nitrogen canister must be acquired. Both are low cost and minor setbacks. Self-inflicted pain that results is, again, both non-unique and not relevant to this debate. Pro’s argument that incentives to self-harm are unique to NA is also false: FS incentivizes moving out of the lines of sight, and the condemned may dislocate joints or abrade themselves against their restraints to do. These do not expose cruelty in these methods because they are not impositions. This is what Pro misunderstands about my dread argument. The condemned may dread their deaths with both NA and FS, but Pro’s case uniquely generate anticipations for terrible pain post-shooting. Setting aside the question of whether those gunshot wounds cause pain (for now), anticipation of pain exists solely in Pro’s case. As such, Pro’s claim that pain won’t be felt solely because of the neurological chemicals pumped into the body is objectively wrong: the anticipation of expected pain is worse than pain.
Onto FS botches. Historical evidence shows that botches involve more than 30 seconds of bleeding out slowly, and this is only among executions. Pro points to the many Americans who use guns for suicide, asking if he can use it in his data. Yes, please. What’s the botch rate on those? 17.5%. That’s a massive botch rate and emphasizes that the length of time one suffers after being shot can be excruciatingly long, well beyond the period where brain chemistry can dull the pain.
Even if we confine it to the shorter time, though, Pro’s case is designed to inflict physical harm. That can and will cause pain. Pro’s claims regarding stress-based pain reduction are just as flawed as his adrenaline claims. Stress-induced analgesia is limited by “individual sensitivity… [which] can vary greatly and that sensitivity is coupled to… opioid sensitivity and startle response… [and] influenced by age, gender, and prior experience to stressful, painful, or other environmental stimuli.” Since it’s largely based on surprise and distraction (hence “startle response”), stress, like adrenaline, has little to no role in death row inmates who know they are about to be killed. As such, Pro’s case directly inflicts both injury and pain, regardless of time frame.
2. Collateral cruelty
This issue does not require botching to be meaningful. So long as there is collateral harm caused by implementation of our methods, it factors into this equation. Do FS or NA harm those who are involved beyond the condemned?
Pro’s case relies on the effectiveness of the blank as a form of absolution. However, as I’ve already pointed out, a blank is all his case actually requires, and a blank has no recoil. This means every shooter will know their contribution. That’s 4 people, compared with 1 in my case (you don’t need more to affix a mask and pipe in nitrogen), who will have knowingly contributed to the death of the condemned. Even if we assume recoil was built in, Pro doesn’t provide any evidence that this reduces resulting psychological trauma. PTSD is still far more prevalent in Pro’s case, regardless of whether we assume some minor ameliorating effect.
Pro argues that The National Practitioner Data Bank could remove medical licenses. He’s wrong – it’s a data bank, which theoretically can lead medical staff, societies and licensing boards to act against specific physicians, but cannot act itself. Pro provides no provides no examples of this occurring at any point in US history. That’s probably because it never has. And his own source  from R4 explains why: “Medical licensing boards ordinarily address illegal activities of physicians and complaints relating to patient care... Executions are legal; therefore, in states that require the presence of physicians at executions, licensing boards—established by state law and quasi-legal—are unlikely to take action against the licenses of physicians who participate.” Pro’s argument also relies on medical professionals disclosing their participation. Again, Pro’s source shows that few states disclose the names of these physicians, and those that do protect them against reprisals.
Let’s get this out of the way first: nitrogen leakage into the environment is not dangerous. 78% of our atmosphere is nitrogen. A single tank leaking into the environment does not displace enough oxygen to cause hypoxia, despite Pro’s unwarranted claims to the contrary.
In a respect, Pro is correct that PTSD results among those seeing corpses, regardless of gore. However, Pro’s argument goes beyond that. He argues that the blood and gore generated by FS will not engender worse symptoms. The big problem with this response is that Pro concedes that stress disorders like this would be worsened by working with brutalized corpses. That’s not surprising considering there is substantial research supporting the link between exposure to traumatic death and PTSD. Pro claims that these are not gory deaths, though this flies in the face of Pro’s other arguments. He at once wants to claim that these guns will utterly destroy lungs, major arteries, veins and the heart itself, and yet they won’t be particularly bloody or gruesome. And that’s if there is no botching.
Even if we can assume that everyone viewing these executions is completely protected from viewing the resulting gore, the effects on the prison staff and clean-up crews cannot be prevented.
Both of our cases have shown benefits over the status quo. Pro wants you to believe that the uncertainties damn my case, but it’s the certainties that damn his. We know that the public is opposed to FS and that none of the changes he’s making will alter that perspective, leading to legislative action against it. We know that FS, by design, inflicts both pain and injury, and has a substantial chance of botching, causing egregious pain and injury. We know that FS is psychologically traumatizes other, non-guilty parties more than methods that don’t result in a gory death. None of these are true of NA. Hence, vote Con.