House Overwhelmingly Passes Measure Against Defunding School Hunting Programs

The House voted 424–1 to restore the federal funding for hunting, archery, and gun safety programs held in American schools.
House Overwhelmingly Passes Measure Against Defunding School Hunting Programs
A hunter aims with his rifle in this file photo taken in 2021. (Pascal Pochard-Casabianca/AFP via Getty Images)
Bill Pan

The House on Tuesday night overwhelmingly passed a resolution that would undo the Biden administration's attempt to block federal funding for hunting, archery, and gun safety courses held in schools across the nation.

The resolution, H.R. 5110, cleared the lower chamber by a vote of 424–1, with the sole "nay" vote coming from Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas).
The bipartisan move was prompted by a recent amendment of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, which added the "provision to any person of a dangerous weapon or training in the use of a dangerous weapon" to a list of activities and programs ineligible for federal education dollars.

This amendment itself was part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), a gun control package that was introduced in October 2021 and enacted months later following a string of high-profile shootings, including one that left 19 children and two teachers dead at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Congress' intent with the change was to move federal funding of armed school security personnel from the ESEA, the nation's main education funding mechanism, to a different federal law. However, the U.S. Education Department has interpreted the new provision as a ban on federal funding for school-based hunting, shooting, and even archery programs.

"This prohibition applies to all ESEA funds," an Education Department spokesperson told Fox News in July. "The prohibition went into effect immediately on June 25, 2022 and applies to all existing and future awards under all ESEA programs. The Department is administering the bipartisan law as written by Congress."

Reversing the Regulation

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), one of the leading sponsors of the BSCA, has written to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, urging him to have the amended language reinterpreted.

"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 senator wrote in the Sept. 5 letter. He was joined by a group of 17 Senate colleagues, including eight Democrats and one independent.

Another group of 18 Republican senators, who voted against the BSCA, also sent a letter (pdf) demanding that President Joe Biden stop the "purposeful misinterpretation of the gun control bill" and restore the funding for hunter education and archery programs.

"Hunting and archery are strongly connected to the traditions and heritage of America. This outrageous overreach is an attack on hunters and outdoor recreation that must be addressed," they wrote in August.

The Education Department's interpretation also drew much criticism from Second Amendment advocacy groups.

Mark Jones, the national director for hunter programs at Gun Owners of America, argued that this is meant to advance the Biden administration's "ultimate goal" to reduce participation in hunting and shooting sports.

"Over the last 58 years, hunter education programs in our schools have taught millions of children about hunter safety, ethical hunting practices, wildlife management and history, gun safety, and archery," Mr. Jones wrote. "While in some communities these programs are administered by private entities and community partnerships outside our schools, even they depend on schools to recruit participants."

"Large numbers of our children have access to these programs only through schools," he noted.

Should H.R. 5110 also pass the Senate and be approved by President Joe Biden, it would amend the ESEA to clarify that the law does not stop funding school programs that offer archery, hunting, or other shooting sports as a course or extracurricular activities.

The original ESEA specified six categories that federal funds can't be used for in public schools. These include school facility construction and repairs, transportation, programs designed to "promote or encourage sexual activity," age-inappropriate sex education, and distribution of contraceptives or "legally obscene materials."

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