President Biden is planning to sign new legislation that will reverse his own administration’s controversial decision to defund school shooting sports programs. The White House confirmed on Thursday that the President supports the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act, which ensures that elementary and secondary schools will continue to receive federal funding for programs such as hunting, archery, and gun safety courses.
The bipartisan legislation, which passed unanimously in the Senate and with an overwhelming majority in the House, was introduced by Republican and Democratic lawmakers who were concerned about the Department of Education’s interpretation of a 2022 gun control law. The Department had recently issued guidance stating that federally funded programs could no longer offer courses in hunting, archery, and other shooting sports.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), one of the Senate sponsors of the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act, spoke out against the administration’s decision and called on Biden to sign the bill into law. “The Biden administration’s shameful and deliberate misinterpretation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act has jeopardized students’ access to educational enrichment programs like hunting and archery,” Cornyn said. “This legislation would ensure these valuable programs remain available in schools across the country, and I urge the President to immediately sign it into law and right this egregious wrong.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), another sponsor of the bill, expressed concern that the Department of Education’s decision could harm the longstanding tradition and culture of hunting and shooting sports in his state. “In Montana and across rural America, our schools have long offered hunter safety classes that teach our students gun safety and personal responsibility,” Tester said in remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday. “But recently the Biden Administration and bureaucrats in Washington who don’t understand our Montana values decided to block funding for these important education programs.”
The issue at hand stems from the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which included an amendment stating that federal funds could not be used to provide training in the use of a dangerous weapon. However, the sponsors of the bill clarified that this amendment was intended to prevent federal funding for school resource officer training, not for programs in hunting and archery.
The Department of Education, however, stood by its interpretation of the law and stated that funding for these programs would only be restored if legislation was passed specifically allowing it. This led to a bipartisan effort to pass the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act to ensure that these programs will continue to receive the federal support they need.
Critics of the Department of Education’s decision say that many schools have already eliminated these programs due to the federal guidance, and that this bill will serve as a wake-up call for the administration. “The Department of Education is completely tone-deaf to think that cutting hunting and archery programs in schools is a good idea,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
With overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle, the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act has been sent to President Biden’s desk for his signature. It will ensure that students can continue to benefit from these valuable educational enrichment programs and maintain their connection to the longstanding traditions of hunting and shooting sports.