Unfortunately, once again, tragedy has struck this nation. And it is always that much more painful when those targeted are youth- the promising, on the backs of whom lie the dreams of tomorrow.
On May 18th, 2018, there was a school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. The act of senseless brutality left at least 10 dead and 10 injured- many of whom are in critical condition. Emotions always run high, as they should, after such terror.
Almost immediately after the shooting, those in the media and everyday folk alike began to bring up the question: What should be done with the murderer? This question is especially pertinent given that Texas is a state in which the death penalty -and we should avoid using euphemisms like “capital punishment”- is legal. I have seen many, including those close to me, who have come out and said that the perpetrator of this heinous act should be met with the same fate as his victims. This would be, quite literally, the worst possible thing to do.
If murder is wrong (and I assume everyone reading this believes that it is), why on earth would you want more of it? If 10 deaths is so terrible, why is 11 somehow better? When you bang the drum to call for more bloodshed, you have surrendered the moral high ground. You have transitioned away from the side of good.
The killer has been neutralized. For all intents and purposes, he is no longer a threat. He is not an active threat. Our priority should be maintaining his neutralization so that he does not have the ability to harm others- not repay evil with evil.
Do not misunderstand me- calling for the death of the killer does not necessarily make you his moral equal. However, those who do are operating on the same moral plane as they believe that killing those who are not active threats is justified.
While the moral argument should be enough, I have heard many argue for the death penalty on financial grounds. Why should I have to pay to keep this monster alive? Setting aside the callousness of putting a price on human life, this argument is just factually incorrect. The death penalty costs significantly more on average per criminal than life in prison.
The senseless barbarism known as “the death penalty” has also been defended on the grounds that it serves as a deterrent. Not only is there no evidence for this whatsoever, there is actually significant evidence to the contrary. The murder rate has fallen in states like New York, Illinois and New Mexico in the years following their repeal of the death penalty.
Another problem with the death penalty lies in its irreversibility. Once it’s done, it’s done. if you care anything about the loss of innocent life, you cannot be a supporter of the death penalty. Studies show that at least 4% of the inmates on death row are innocent.
What if that was your family member who was killed? Wouldn’t you want the killer dead? No, actually- and most of those grieving families agree with me. A landmark study by the Marquette Law Review found better sustained mental health for the families involved in these sorts of tragedies when the penalty for the perpetrator was life in prison and not death.
Amazingly, there is not even an argument for the death penalty if your only aim is to be “tough” on criminals. Death row inmates prefer death to life in prison. That makes sense when you consider how many shooters kill themselves after they have finished their deranged and twisted mowing down of the innocent.
There is no good argument for the death penalty. If we wish to be a moral nation, we must reject the ultimate evil of murder in all of its forms. It’s about time we call for a federal ban on this savagery. It’s about time we just say no to murder.