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As South Carolina execution looms, firing squad debated

This March 2019, file photo, provided by the South Carolina Department of Corrections shows the...
This March 2019, file photo, provided by the South Carolina Department of Corrections shows the state's electric chair in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina House members may soon debate whether to restart the state's stalled death penalty with the electric chair and whether to add a firing squad to the execution methods. The state's House Judiciary Committee approved a bill Tuesday, April 27, 2021, that would let condemned inmates choose death by being shot in the heart by several sharpshooters.(Kinard Lisbon/South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP, File)
Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 10:39 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - Death penalty opponents have been making stops in South Carolina to speak out about why they feel the state should not use a firing squad to execute inmates.

Death Penalty Action has been hosting conversations on the issue Friday and Saturday in Columbia and Greenville.

Earlier this month, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law a bill forcing inmates to choose death by firing squad or electric chair, if lethal injection drugs aren’t available.

The state hasn’t held an execution in a decade, because of the lack of injection drugs.

The group’s executive director, Abe Bonowitz, says he feels South Carolina’s inability to execute inmates in the past decade hasn’t weakened the state’s capacity to punish criminals.

The South Carolina Supreme Court, meanwhile, set the execution date for one of two death row inmates who are suing the state over the law that allows inmates to choose between a firing squad or the electric chair.

Brad Sigmon, who was sentenced to death in 2002 for two counts of murder, is set to be executed on June 18.

But a lawsuit filed by his attorneys earlier this month argues he can’t be executed by electric chair or firing squad because he was sentenced under an old law that made lethal injection the default method of execution in the state.

The state’s usual injection protocol calls for three drugs: the sedative pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. But the South Carolina Department of Corrections said it hasn’t had the drugs in stock since 2013, when its last supplies expired.

The manufacturers of those drugs don’t want to sell them to the state without a shield law that would prevent their names from being made public and, thereby, their companies being publicly associated with capital punishment.

During his State of the State Address in January, Gov. Henry McMaster called on the General Assembly to pass a shield law that would protect the names of companies that manufacture the drugs necessary from lethal injection to be made public.

“We have no means to carry out a death sentence in South Carolina, and the murderers know it,” he said in his Jan. 13 speech before the state legislature.

The governor said he and South Carolina Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling have been asking the General Assembly to fix this for years.

McMaster said it would give grieving families and loved ones “the justice and closure they are owed by law.”

The state legislature did not pass a shield law this session.

Copyright 2021 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.