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Democrats Murphy, Sinema join with Republicans to oppose Biden crackdown on hunting and archery programs

 September 7, 2023

Republican and Democratic senators, in a recent bipartisan initiative, voiced their objections to the Biden administration's approach towards school hunting education and archery programs.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas took the lead on two significant letters that emerged late Tuesday. These letters highlighted what some lawmakers view as misinterpretation by the Department of Education concerning financial allocations for these programs, Fox News reported.

The Significance of Enrichment Activities

One letter sent to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona bore the signatures of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, nine from each side. The second, directed towards the Appropriations Committee leadership, was endorsed by six Republicans and 11 Democrats.

In their letter to Cardona, the lawmakers jointly expressed their concern, stating, "Unfortunately, and contrary to Congressional intent, the Department of Education has misinterpreted the language to exclude certain educational activities from receiving federal resources."

They emphasized the value of these enrichment activities, underscoring the inclusivity of archery as a sport and the crucial teachings of hunter safety programs in imparting knowledge about safety measures, wildlife management, and personal responsibility.

Concerns on Funding Strip

In July, the Education Department announced that hunting and archery courses might lose federal funding. This decision was rooted in the administration's interpretation of the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA). Administration officials believed such programs should not be beneficiaries of taxpayer funds.

This perspective was further highlighted when senior agency official Sarah Martinez pointed out the technical classification of archery equipment and materials for hunter education as "dangerous weapons."

As a result, officials claimed they could not provide funding under the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

This Act traditionally serves as a major federal support pillar for primary and secondary schooling nationwide. Consequently, many schools have already discontinued these courses in response to the federal directive.

The letter to Cardona stated, "We ask that the Department interpret the language as Congress intended and no longer ask educational entities to seek other funding sources for educational enrichment programs that align with the intent of ESEA — supporting student achievement and student well-being."

The Origin and Implication of BSCA

The BSCA Act, criticized as a "gun control" bill, was passed by a sweeping majority in Congress. Its proponents saw it as a means to cultivate "safer, more inclusive and positive" educational environments.

The legislation came into effect following mass shooting indicdents in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.

A significant component of this law pertained to an amendment in the ESEA, delineating forbidden uses of federal educational funding.

This amendment essentially barred the use of ESEA funds for any activity that would equip an individual with a "dangerous weapon" or provide training in its use. However, according to Sen. Cornyn, this was included primarily to avert the use of these funds for training school resource officers.

Pointedly, the second letter directed at the Senate Appropriations Committee stressed the role of these courses in teaching essential skills like firearm safety, wildlife conservation and instilling personal accountability.

Furthermore, the lawmakers highlighted a potential overreach of the Education Department's interpretation, indicating that such an approach might even restrict schools from supplying kitchen knives exceeding 2 ½ inches for culinary classes.

The lawmakers requested the Appropriations Committee to clarify the language in the upcoming funding bill for FY24, rejecting the skewed interpretation of the BSCA by the Education Department.