House Bill 9, introduced in the Alaska House of Representatives at the start of this legislative session, would allow the State of Alaska to execute people convicted for specific acts of murder.
Currently, for the same specific acts of murder, state law allows for a sentence of life in prison.
Those opposed to H.B. 9 support holding a person who commits murder accountable for his or her actions. In many ways, the current legal punishment of life in prison is a more severe sentence because the period of suffering is long and intense.
Objection to H..B 9 is about whether certain specific acts of murder should result in another form of killing, a form of killing that is ritualized, sanitized and sanctioned by public policy.
An argument for the death penalty is sometimes couched in a question: "Did the murderer have any sympathy for his/her victim?" My answer would be that the murderer may not have felt sympathy for the victim. H.B. 9 does not address an issue of sympathy. The issue the bill poses is: how do we treat one another?
Opposition to H.B. 9 is about taking a stand against violence while holding individuals accountable for their actions.
I recently heard someone quote a statewide poll that indicated 65 percent of Alaska adults are opposed to capital punishment. The survey was not identified, so it is not possible to evaluate the accuracy of such a poll, but, intuitively this seems right. Most people are not comfortable with acts of killing whether it is done through state sanction or by an individual.
The introduction of H.B. 9 asks Alaskans to consider what kind of world we want to create for ourselves. People found guilty of murder are punished according to the type of murder, as well as aggravating and mitigating factors. Making a law to kill murderers is not going to undo the harm. It will not support healthy human values, nor will such a law make us any safer.
Say no to killing, yes to accountability, and no to H.B. 9.
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