The U.S. House voted late on Tuesday night in favor of legislation that struck 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 GOP members and 208 Democrats voting in favor and only one legislator, Democrat Representative Veronica Escobar of Texas, voting against. GOP Representative Mark Green of Tennessee introduced the bill on August 1, only days after a report by Fox News Digital in late July revealed the Department of Education withheld funds for school archery and hunting courses.
“Hunters and fishers are the best conservationists,” said Green to Fox News Digital after the Tuesday vote. “Hunting, whether it be with 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.”
Green added in a separate statement that students in America 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, the Biden administration’s funding decision in his state alone impacts approximately 50,000 students.
In July, Fox News Digital reported the Education Department shared federal guidance to hunting education groups, highlighting that school archery and hunting programs would be stripped of funding. The guidance explained the administration interpreted the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) to mean that such programs can no longer receive funds from taxpayers.
In the guidance, Sarah Martinez, a senior agency official, wrote that hunter education, archery, 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 as well as secondary education across the U.S.
According to advocates, most schools that offer such courses have already cut them from curriculums because of 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,” said National Shooting Sports Foundation’s senior vice president, Lawrence Keane, 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,” added Keane.
The National Archery in the Schools Program president, Tommy Floyd, said his organization boasts around 1.3 million students from about 9,000 schools across 45 states enrolled in archery courses.
But, the Department of Education has doubled down on its interpretation of BSCA and said it would only reverse course if legislation were passed that explicitly revised a 2022 law that would allow funding for shooting sports programs in schools.
Bill has been criticized as a “gun control bill”
The BSCA, which is a bill that was criticized as a “gun control” bill but was touted by proponents as an effort to advance “safer, more inclusive and positive” schools, was passed by Congress overwhelmingly and signed into law by President Joe Biden in June 2022 after mass shootings at a school in Uvalde, Texas, and a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
The law included an amendment to an ESEA subsection listing that prohibited uses for federal school funding. The amendment prohibits ESEA funds from helping provide “training in the use of a dangerous weapon,” or a dangerous weapon. However, according to the BSCA’s sponsors, it was included to prevent ESEA funding for training for school resource officers.
Earlier in the month, three of the four BSCA Senate sponsors — Senators Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina; Independent Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona; and Republican John Cornyn of Texas — 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,” said Cornyn Tuesday after a vote in the House. “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 Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Jon Tester of Montana, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Mark Kelly of Arizona, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have all spoken out against the Biden administration’s interpretation of the BSCA.