South Carolina House Votes to Add Firing Squad as Execution Method

May 6, 2021 Updated: May 6, 2021

The South Carolina House voted on May 5 to add firing squads as an alternative execution method for the state’s death-row inmates, amid a lack of lethal injection drugs.

The bill, approved by a 66–43 vote, will require condemned inmates to choose either being shot or electrocuted if lethal injection drugs aren’t available. The state is one of only nine to still use the electric chair and will become only the fourth to allow firing squads.

Currently, South Carolina isn’t able to place inmates on death row as its supply of lethal injection drugs has expired, and it hasn’t been able to purchase more because of a nationwide shortage. The state last conducted an execution in May 2011.

Condemned inmates are currently able to choose between the electric chair and lethal injection, and since the drugs aren’t available, many have chosen the lethal injection method as the state is then unable to force inmates to be executed by means of electrocution.

The bill keeps lethal injection if the state has the drugs but requires prison officials to use the electric chair if it doesn’t. Inmates could choose a firing squad if they prefer.

The state has been unable to purchase lethal injection drugs for about five years, as drug manufacturers seek to limit how their products are used. As a result, two scheduled executions have been pushed back.

The state Senate approved the bill in March, with a bipartisan group of lawmakers voting 32–11 to give it a second reading. The House only made minor technical changes to that version, meaning that after a routine final vote in the House and a signoff by the Senate, it will go to Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who has said he’ll sign it.

To date, there are 37 inmates on death row in the state.

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly expressed support for capital punishment and restarted the practice at the federal level last year after a 17-year hiatus. Trump argued that executions serve as an effective deterrent and an appropriate punishment for some crimes, including mass shootings and the killings of police officers.

President Joe Biden, meanwhile, is the first sitting U.S. president to openly oppose the death penalty and has discussed potentially instructing the Justice Department to stop scheduling new executions, according to The Associated Press.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.