Fact Check

Did South Carolina Legislators Pass a Bill Allowing Firing Squad Executions?

Other states that allow for death by firing squad, at least in some cases, are Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah.

Published May 6, 2021

[Emperor Maximilian's Firing Squad], 1867. Artist François Aubert. (Photo by Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images) (Photo by Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images)
[Emperor Maximilian's Firing Squad], 1867. Artist François Aubert. (Photo by Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images)
In 2021, South Carolina lawmakers passed a bill that could allow for some death penalty executions to be carried out by firing squad.

The bill passed the South Carolina House of Representatives but still needs to be passed by the South Carolina Senate and be signed into law by the governor.

On May 6, 2021, several media outlets reported that "South Carolina may become the fourth state to allow executions by firing squad." These news stories concern an amendment to a bill that was originally intended to resume that state's ability to carry out the death penalty by making the default execution method the electric chair as opposed to the injection. An inability to execute by lethal injection is due to a lack of access to those drugs nationwide.

"The bill opens the door for South Carolina to resume executions for the first time in a decade. The state has had to postpone three executions due to a nationwide shortage of lethal injection drugs, caused by drug companies who wanted to crack down on how their products are being used," The State reported.

Both the South Carolina House and the South Carolina Senate had introduced versions of this bill in late 2020. As described by The State, "The bill … would make the electric chair the default mode of execution, meaning that if no other method were available, an inmate would have to die in the chair." Neither bill, originally, included a firing squad option.

On May 5, 2021, the South Carolina House Judiciary Committee introduced an amendment to the bill that would give inmates on death row the option to die by firing squad as well. That amendment was adopted by the House.

Now this amended version of the bill goes back to the South Carolina Senate to see if it votes to approve the changes. In a series of tweets, South Carolina governor Henry McMaster indicated he would sign the bill if it reached his desk:

Because legislators in South Carolina, at least those in the House, did pass a bill adding firing squads to the list of acceptable modes of execution, the claim is "True."

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.