South Carolina lawmakers voted to allow firing squads as an execution option when carrying out death penalty sentences. The state’s Republican governor, Henry McMaster, said he will sign the legislation into law.
On Wednesday, the state’s House approved the bill requiring inmates sentenced to the death penalty to choose between firing squad or electrocution. In a 66-43 vote, only one Democrat voted in favor of the legislation and just seven Republicans voted against it.
Presently, South Carolina is unable to execute death row inmates due to the nationwide lack of lethal injection drugs. And because inmates can choose between the electric chair and lethal injection, they opt for the unavailable option. Death by injection will remain an option, but the inclusion of a firing squad gives officials a required method to fall back on.
The reason for the shortage follows a slew of “botched” executions using lethal injections over recent years, leading pharmaceutical companies to withhold certain drugs, causing a shortage that has slowed the rate of the carrying out of death sentences nationwide.
Democratic Rep. Justin Bamberg railed against the bill’s passage, saying those who voted in favor are executioners themselves.
“If you push the green button at the end of the day and vote to pass this bill out of this body, you may as well be throwing the switch yourself,” Bamberg said.
State House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford condemned the bill passage and said he feels “ashamed.”
“It’s 2021. We should move on from these barbaric forms of punishment that are more medieval than they are modern. Today, our state has taken a step backward and I am ashamed,” Rutherford wrote.
The state has not executed anyone since 2011. Once Gov. McMaster signs the bill, South Carolina will become the fourth state to allow executions by firing squad.