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Sarah Huckabee Sanders calls for murder charges for fentanyl dealers

By Sarah May on
 February 18, 2023

Republican Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Friday her support for a bill that would make it possible for drug dealers to be charged with murder if their trafficking activities lead to a deadly overdose, as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

During the same press conference in which she described the proposed measure, Sanders also introduced the state's new drug czar, Thomas Fisher, who will now be tasked with coordinating drug enforcement strategies across Arkansas.

Stringent penalties proposed

As she outlined the devastating toll fentanyl trafficking has taken on Arkansas, but also the nation as a whole, Sanders asserted that House Bill 283, authored by Republicans state Sen. Sam Gilmore and state Rep. Jimmy Gazaway would go a long way toward holding “killer drug dealers accountable,” as Little Rock ABC affiliate KATV explained.

Under the measure, anyone suspected of delivering drugs resulting in an overdose would face a charge of murder, as Sanders noted, and those involved in trafficking fentanyl to children would be subject to a possible sentence if life in prison.

General trafficking in fentanyl would yield possible sentences of between 25 and 60 years and a fine of $1 million, should the bill ultimately be adopted.

Preemptively responding to critics of the enhanced punishments, Sanders stated, “To anyone who claims these new penalties are too harsh, I want you to listen to me and hear me now: Allowing unrepentant murderers to stalk our streets is not compassionate. It's foolish, it's dangerous, and under my leadership and administration, it will end.”

Tackling an “epidemic”

Shedding further light on why she believes stiffer penalties for fentanyl trafficking are needed now more than ever, Sanders pointed to pandemic isolation as a recent driver of increases in addiction and overdose deaths, as KATV further noted.

The governor pointed out that 628 individuals in Arkansas alone died of a drug overdose in the last year for which data exists, and that is a trend Sanders says is unacceptable.

“As a mom, it's hard to see all the lives that are lost and my heart certainly breaks for every parent who has lost a son or daughter to an overdose,” she began.

The governor continued, “I don't think any of us can not think about people that we know and have connections to those who have lost somebody to this epidemic.”

Biden blamed

On the same day she announced her support for House Bill 283, Sanders took to Twitter and laid blame – at least in part – on the current administration for allowing the fentanyl epidemic to gain steam in recent years.

“Biden's refusal to secure our southern border allows deadly drugs like fentanyl to pour in and kill Americans,” Sanders said.

“But we will step up where he has failed,” the governor vowed.

“Today, I am announcing my support for legislation that will crack down on killer drug dealers and save lives,” the governor added.

National profile grows

Sanders' Friday press conference follows closely on the heels of her nationally televised, prime time delivery of the Republican response to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address earlier this month, a speech in which she made clear reference to the very problem her state is now attempting to tackle.

“As a mom, my heart breaks for every parent who has lost a son or daughter to addiction. 100,000 Americans a year are now killed from drug overdoses, largely from fentanyl pouring in across our southern border. Yet the Biden administration refuses to secure the border and save American lives,” Sanders told viewers coast to coast.

The governor's speech was extremely well-received by fellow high-profile Republicans, many of whom heralded her as a conservative force to be reckoned with in the coming years.

Among those singing Sanders' praises was U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who, as Fox News noted, applauded the “tremendous job” the governor did in responding to Biden's remarks and added, “[s]he represents our next generation of strong conservative women that are unafraid to stand for freedom and against tyranny.”