We South Carolinians are used to it.
And it’s been national-mockery business as usual since state Rep. Joshua Putnam, R-Piedmont, filed a bill Wednesday to make firing squads an alternative for dispatching death-row inmates from this mortal coil.
Even S.C. House Democratic spokesman Tyler Jones aimed sarcastic scorn at the idea, suggesting that Putnam also consider “adding a guillotine option.” Jones further asserted that Putnam’s proposal “just makes South Carolina look medieval.”
Hey, going “medieval” on very bad guys is sadly underrated in this hypersensitive era.
Anyway, Putnam’s bill also would restore the much more recent means of execution via electrocution.
Meanwhile, with drugs formerly used for lethal injections unavailable, carrying out a death sentence demands other methods.
What about morphine? Isn’t it frequently used to halt the pointless suffering of terminal patients in terrible pain?
Still, the supposedly merciful final act of putting a fatal potion into the bloodstream has drawn criticism after a series of botched U.S. executions in recent decades.
That grisly list includes the long good-bye of Michael Elkins on June 13, 1997. Due to ailment-driven swelling of his liver and spleen, his executioners had a tough time finding an accessible vein. It took nearly an hour before the needle was finally inserted in his neck.
But lest you waste much pity on Elkins, review this Associated Press account of the brutal crime to which he admitted — a stabbing murder he committed with eight knife wounds in a good Samaritan to facilitate a robbery:
“Elkins was convicted of killing Patricia Whitt, 59, of Largo, Fla., on July 9, 1990, after she stopped to help him and another man who feigned car trouble along Interstate 95 near the Georgia border.”
Sure, there have been more gruesome examples of American lethal injections gone long and wrong as the condemned writhed in extended agony before taking their last breaths.
That has made pharmaceutical companies increasingly reluctant to supply the stuff required for this imposition of the ultimate justice.
And that has made for those of us still lingering in the dwindled ranks of death-penalty advocates frustrated.
Capital punishment hasn’t been administered in South Carolina since May 6, 2011.
That’s when Jeffrey Motts, who got two life sentences for murdering two aging relatives (one 79, the other 73) in 1995, was lethally injected for strangling a cellmate to death in 2007.
Two years after Motts’ execution, the S.C. Department of Corrections’ stash of death-penalty drugs expired. Now two years after that, Putnam’s trying to solve that problem.
Oklahoma and Utah already have passed legislation reviving the use of firing squads.
Nazi war criminals executed after the Nuremberg Trials requested — and were rightly denied — to be executed by firing squads because they deemed that a more honorable end than being hanged like common killers.
And when you kill killers with bullets from guns instead of drugs from needles, you don’t need an accessible vein.
OK, so capital punishment in the U.S. has long been gagging toward a slow death of its own.
So while our Founding Fathers clearly didn’t deem the death penalty a “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment, it’s so belatedly, rarely and randomly applied these days that this can reasonably be branded as not just unusual but uneven.
Still, if it’s OK for our state to kill killers with deadly doses of drugs, why shouldn’t it also be OK to kill them with live rounds of ammunition?
And regardless of your view on whether, why, when, where and how capital punishment should be administered, remember, it’s still the law of the land, er, state, here.
So don’t too hastily dismiss Putnam’s firing-squad notion.
Don’t worry, either, about finding folks to serve on armed death panels. Our Palmetto State packs plenty of gun enthusiasts, many of whom are also diehard death penalty fans.
So there should be no shortage of volunteers to carry out that grim but necessary duty. We could even supplement now-meager Corrections Department funding by putting shots at firing-squad participation up for auction to certified marksmen — and markswomen.
This column’s last words come from Englishman Robert Erskine Childers.
Author of the breakthrough 1903 spy novel “The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service,” he somehow metamorphosed from staunch defender of British imperialism to ardent Irish nationalist.
Sentenced to death on Nov. 20, 1922, under the Army Emergency Powers Resolution for possessing a semiautomatic pistol (what? no Second Amendment?), Childers shook hands with every member of his firing squad a mere four days later in Dublin, then told them:
“Take a step or two forward, lads. It will be easier that way.”
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.