The House voted late Tuesday evening in favor of legislation striking down the Biden administration’s decision to block federal funding for school shooting sports courses.
In a 424-1 vote, the House approved the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act with 216 Republicans and 208 Democrats voting in favor, and just one lawmaker, Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, voting against. Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., introduced the bill on Aug. 1, days after a Fox News Digital report in late July revealed the Department of Education was withholding funds for school hunting and archery courses.
“Hunters and fishers are the best conservationists,” Green told reporters after the vote Tuesday. “Hunting, whether it be with a firearm or bow, is one of the most effective ways to control wildlife populations, protect our beautiful lands, and connect with nature. My Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act is critical for our children.”
He added in a separate statement that American students should be encouraged to “participate in enriching athletic activities that foster an appreciation for nature and the ability to focus on a goal.” According to Green, in his state alone, the Biden administration’s funding decision impacts an estimated 50,000 students.
The Biden administration has been criticized for spearheading a war on hunting with various regulations. (Getty Images)
Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., right, introduced the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act on Aug. 1, 2023. (Getty Images)
National media reported in July that the Education Department shared federal guidance to hunting education groups highlighting that hunting and archery programs in schools would be stripped of funding. The guidance explained that the administration interpreted the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) to mean such programs can no longer receive taxpayer funds.
In the guidance, senior agency official Sarah Martinez wrote that archery, hunter education and wilderness safety courses use weapons that are “technically dangerous weapons” and therefore “may not be funded under” the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is the primary source of federal aid for elementary and secondary education across the country.
According to advocates, many schools that offer such courses have already nixed them from curriculums due to the federal guidance.
“The Department of Education and Secretary Cardona are blatantly misconstruing the law to withhold funding from schools that choose to teach beneficial courses like hunter safety and archery,” Lawrence Keane, the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s senior vice president, told reporters in July.
“Congress must hold Secretary Cardona and the department accountable for violating the letter and spirit of the law to unilaterally deny America’s students access to these valuable programs as part of the Administration’s continued attacks on the Second Amendment,” Keane added.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona delivers remarks about the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act at the National Safer Communities Summit in West Hartford, Connecticut, on June 16, 2023. (Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Tommy Floyd, the president of the National Archery in the Schools Program, said his organization boasts roughly 1.3 million students from nearly 9,000 schools across 49 states who are enrolled in archery courses.
However, the Department of Education has doubled down on its interpretation of the BSCA, saying it would only reverse course if legislation was passed explicitly revising the 2022 law to allow funding for shooting sport programs in schools.
The BSCA — a bill that was criticized as a “gun control” bill but touted by proponents as an effort to promote “safer, more inclusive and positive” schools — was passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law by President Biden in June 2022 after mass shootings at a grocery market in Buffalo, New York, and a school in Uvalde, Texas.
From left, Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz.; and John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced companion legislation of the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act in the Senate on Sept. 18, 2023. (Getty Images)
The law included an amendment to a subsection in the ESEA listing that prohibited uses for federal school funding. That amendment prohibits ESEA funds from helping provide any person with a dangerous weapon or to provide “training in the use of a dangerous weapon,” but, according to the BSCA’s sponsors, was included to prevent ESEA funding for school resource officer training.
Earlier this month, three of the four BSCA Senate sponsors — Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz. — introduced companion legislation to Green’s bill.
“The Biden administration’s misinterpretation of these provisions has jeopardized educational enrichment programs like hunting and archery, which play a critical role in our next generation’s development and well-being,” Cornyn said Tuesday after the House vote. “This legislation would ensure these programs remain available in schools across the nation, and I urge the Senate to pass it as soon as possible.”
Democratic Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Mark Kelly of Arizona have all spoken out against the Biden administration’s interpretation of the BSCA.