Death row inmates will be forced to make the horrific choice between dying by electric chair or firing squad after supplies for lethal injections ran out.
On Wednesday, the South Carolina House voted in favour of adding a firing squad – now widely considered archaic – to the state’s official list of execution methods.
The bill will require condemned prisoners to choose between being shot or electrocuted to death if lethal injection drugs are not available at the time.
South Carolina cannot currently carry out executions because its supply of the required drugs (pentobarbitol, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride) has expired, and the state has been unable to purchase more.
Drug companies are often unwilling to have their products used in executions, and shortages are common in the US.
At present, South Carolina’s condemned must choose between the electric chair and lethal injection.
“Since the drugs are not available, they choose injection,” ABC reports.
Under the new bill, prison officials will be required to use either the electric chair or the firing squad if drugs are unavailable.
It’s an attempt to jump-start executions in a state that used to kill more inmates than almost any other, but has not had an execution in 10 years.
Several prisoners are in line to be executed and three have had their final appeals rejected, politicians who voted against the firing squad bill reminded their colleagues in the House.
“Three living, breathing human beings with a heartbeat that this bill is aimed at killing,” said Democrat Justin Bamberg said.
“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.”
Democrats offered several amendments to the bill including live-streaming executions online and forcing lawmakers to watch them, all of which failed.
Opponents also noted that Virginia, another southern state, outlawed the death penalty entirely earlier this year.
Lethal injection is the most common method of capital punishment in the USA, with South Carolina among only nine states still using the electric chair.
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It will become the fourth to allow a firing squad to kill prisoners if it is signed by Governor Henry McMaster, who has indicated he will.
The method has never been popular in the US, with only 34 of the 8,776 executions carried out between 1890 and 2010 using a firing squad.
Last month killer Zane Michael Floyd requested to be killed via firing squad, calling it a “more humane” way to die than by lethal injection.
In Utah, the only state to have used a firing squad in the last 40 years, the prisoner is seated between stacked sandbags with a target over their heart — a quicker death than a headshot, experts say.
After an opportunity to offer their final words, five anonymous volunteers point rifles through slots in the wall of the execution chamber and fire about 25 feet (8 metres) from the prisoner.
One of the rifles is always loaded with a blank round so none of the shooters can be sure whose was the fatal shot.