Thursday, August 3, 2023

Additional Democrats Express Concern Over Biden's Stance on School Hunting and Archery Courses

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. (Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Another Democratic senator is voicing concerns over the Biden administration's choice to revoke federal support for archery and hunter safety courses in schools across the country.

Montana Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat, submitted a letter on Wednesday to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. In his letter, Tester requested a reversal of the department's interpretation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) passed last year. The current interpretation has led to the blocking of federal funding for shooting sport activities provided for in the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

"In our state of Montana, our educational institutions have a longstanding tradition of offering courses in shooting sports and hunter safety. These courses play a crucial role in instructing students about safety and personal responsibility," Tester wrote in his letter. He added, "Outdoor activities are integral to our western lifestyle, and any cut in federal aid for these educational programs is simply not acceptable."

Tester further pointed out, "Last summer, both Republicans and Democrats collaborated to enact the BSCA, which is designed to enhance the safety and welfare of American students while upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens." He noted, "However, it seems that the Department of Education has taken an interpretation of this law that may limit the capacity of schools to offer crucial firearm training courses."

In an advisory note first acquired by Fox News Digital, a senior official at the agency, Sarah Martinez, stated that archery, hunter education, and wilderness safety courses involve the use of "technically dangerous weapons," and as such, "may not receive funding under ESEA programs."

Passed by Congress with overwhelming support and signed into law by President Biden in June 2022 following mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, the BSCA received criticism as a "gun control" bill. Supporters of the bill, however, saw it as a move towards promoting "safer, more inclusive, and positive" schools.

The legislation included a change to a subsection of the ESEA that listed prohibited uses for federal school funding. This amendment forbids the use of ESEA funds for providing any individual with a dangerous weapon or training in its use. The intention behind this, as per the bill's proponents, was to prevent the use of ESEA funding for training school resource officers.

Tester pointed out in his letter, "By misunderstanding which activities are now supported by the ESEA, the Department of Education is limiting learning opportunities critical to student safety." He urged the department to "rethink its interpretation of BSCA in a way that doesn't restrict educational opportunities for students and doesn't create obstacles for crucial hunter safety courses."

Three of the four sponsors of the BSCA, Senators Kyrsten Sinema, John Cornyn, and Thom Tillis have voiced concerns over the Department of Education's interpretation of the BSCA provision. These senators, along with other legislators, are working with the administration to correct the mistake.

Furthermore, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has criticized the administration. Manchin stated, "Withdrawing funding from schools that offer essential programs like archery and hunting clubs would be a significant misinterpretation of the legislation and just another instance of this administration trying to push their radical agenda with blatant disregard for the law."

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin have both spoken out against the Department of Education's interpretation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. (Getty Images)

Numerous Republicans, hunting enthusiasts, and pro-Second Amendment organizations have added their voices to the growing chorus urging the administration to reverse its decision. "The Biden administration is withholding funding from elementary and secondary schools that offer hunting or archery classes," said Senator Marsha Blackburn. "This administration is punishing Americans solely because they disagree with their values."

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