U.S. South Carolina lawmakers on Wednesday May 5, voted to permit firing squads as a legal execution method for prisoners on death row, amid a lack of lethal-injection drugs.
The bill, approved by a 66-43 vote, will require death row inmates to choose either being shot or electrocuted if lethal injection drugs aren’t available.
The state is one of only nine in the United States that 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 and the state’s Republican Governor, Henry McMaster has said he will sign the legislation into law.
The bill was reportedly pushed by republicans as a way to bring closure to families waiting for offenders to be punished.
“Those families of victims to these capital crimes are unable to get any closure because we are caught in this limbo stage where every potential appeal has been exhausted and the legally imposed sentences cannot be carried out,” representative Weston Newton told the Associated Press.
However, many Democrats opposed the move on moral grounds, and cited the ways the death penalty as a whole is used “disproportionately against Black people.”
The state currently has 37 death row inmates and nearly half of them are black
The Democrats supported firing squads over the electric chair while opposing the death penalty as a whole.
“They’re dead instantly,” Democratic senator Dick Harpootlian told TheWashington Post as the bill was working its way through the statehouse. “The actual pain and suffering of death, it’s actually the least painful and the least suffering of any manner of death.”
Death by electric chair is a “horrible, horrible thing to do to another human being,” where “they are burned to death,” he added.
The other three states that allow a firing squad are Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.