top of page

The Federal Government Seeks the Death Penalty for a Mass Shooter, Breaking President Biden’s Campaign Promise

During his 2020 presidential campaign, President Joe Biden promised to take concrete steps to abolish the federal death penalty and to urge states to do the same. Biden’s rhetoric gave hope to anti-death penalty and whole-life advocates that, at long last, America would catch up with the vast majority of other countries and do away with this brutal, inhumane practice. 

Under Biden, the Justice Department has put a moratorium on federal executions but has done little else to support abolition. In fact, the administration has even gone so far as to defend capital punishment in international forums. In December 2022, the UN overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for a global moratorium on executions with a view toward abolishing the death penalty, but the United States voted against it.

The federal government is pressing to uphold the death sentences of mass killers convicted under previous administrations, such as the Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. And in January 2024, the US Department of Justice announced that it will seek the death penalty for Payton Gendron, the white supremacist who murdered ten Black people at a Buffalo grocery store. This marks the first time the Biden administration has sought the death penalty in a new case. The White House claims that the president’s position on capital punishment hasn’t changed, but he takes no issue with the Justice Department making independent sentencing decisions on capital cases.

The death penalty is never justice, but only vengeance. It cannot bring any of Gendron’s victims back. Furthermore, the death penalty is completely unnecessary in his case because he has already been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole after pleading guilty to state murder charges.

As I wrote in a previous blog post opposing the death penalty for Tsarnaev, the lives of mass killers are not easy to advocate for. Payton Gendron’s hate crime is horrific beyond imagining and has shattered the life of an entire community. He absolutely deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. But killing him by legal proceedings and “approved” methods doesn’t make his murder any more justifiable than those of his ten victims. Two wrongs will never make a right.

President Biden’s passivity is enabling capital punishment to continue and even expand in America. By supporting capital punishment at the United Nations and not speaking out against executions and death sentences at home, he is ensuring that these gratuitous cruelties will continue. 

I understand that President Biden feels the need to respect his Justice Department’s independence, but he could be more forceful about using his influence to work toward abolition. In the wake of President Trump’s abhorrent federal execution spree, President Biden is squandering an opportunity to take serious steps toward a restorative justice system that values every human life.


Disclaimer: The views presented in the Rehumanize Blog do not necessarily represent the views of all members, contributors, or donors. We exist to present a forum for discussion within the Consistent Life Ethic, to promote discourse and present an opportunity for peer review and dialogue.

bottom of page