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Lawmakers Add Firing Squad to Execution Options

South Carolina has run short of lethal injection drugs
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 5, 2021 7:15 PM CDT

(Newser) – The South Carolina House voted Wednesday to add a firing squad to the state's execution methods during a lack of lethal injection drugs—a measure meant to restart executions in a state that once had one of the busiest death chambers in the nation. 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 AP reports. The state is one of only nine to still use the electric chair and will become only the fourth to allow a firing squad. South Carolina last executed a death row inmate 10 years ago Thursday. The Senate approved the bill in March, 32-11, and Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has said he will sign it. Corrections officials said three of South Carolina's 37 death row inmates are out of appeals. But lawsuits against the new death penalty rules are also likely.

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"Three living, breathing human beings with a heartbeat that this bill is aimed at killing," said Democratic Rep. Justin Bamberg, rhythmically thumping the microphone in front of him. "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." South Carolina first began using the electric chair in 1912 after taking over the death penalty from individual counties, which usually hanged prisoners. The other three states that allow a firing squad are Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Three inmates, all in Utah, have been killed by firing squad since the US reinstated the death penalty in 1977. Nineteen inmates have died in the electric chair this century.

(Read more firing squad stories.)

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