The Biden Administration’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act includes language that would remove Department of Education funding for archery and hunter safety education programs. Conservation/sporting groups such as National Wildlife Federation, Safari Club International and the Sportsmen’s Alliance are pushing back, even going so far as a planned lawsuit, to maintain hunter education program funding.
Here’s a press release from the National Wildlife Federation:
Congress, Administration Must Quickly Restore Funding for Archery, Hunter Safety Education
WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 22, 2023) — Congress and the Biden Administration should act quickly, in bipartisan fashion, to amend language in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to ensure that schools can continue to access Department of Education funding for archery and hunter safety education programs. Research has shown that instilling a love of nature in children through a variety of outdoor education classes helps improve physical and mental wellness and grow the next generation of conservationists.
“For decades, hunter education programs in schools have taught students about wildlife management, firearm and archery safety, wilderness survival skills, and conservation. Perhaps most importantly, these programs instill in children a deep respect and appreciation for wildlife and the great outdoors,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “When Congress returns in September, both chambers should move quickly to pass a bipartisan, durable solution so these important enrichment programs can continue to receive funding through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”
Safari Club International also vowed to pursue legal action last week along with the Sportsman’s Alliance:
(Washington, D.C.) On Friday, August 11, 2023, Safari Club International, along with the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, sent a notice of intent to sue the Department of Education over the Department’s misinterpretation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which would prohibit the use of federal funds for shooting sports, hunter education, and outdoor education programs in schools.
Co-sponsors and authors of the BSCA have repeatedly confirmed that it was not intended to restrict funding for these programs. Rather, these programs are vital to helping students find safe and healthy outlets—and to develop a love of the outdoors.
SCI and SAF’s notice of intent to sue warns the Department that its interpretation of the BSCA is arbitrary and capricious, in violation of federal law. It requests a response within ten days, or the organizations will have no choice but to file suit. These shooting sports and hunter education programs are far too important to allow this funding uncertainty to continue.
“SCI is disheartened by the Administration’s lack of urgency in correcting their misinterpretation of the BSCA,” said Ben Cassidy, SCI EVP of International Government and Public Affairs. “Congress has repeatedly confirmed that this was not the BSCA’s intent. The Department mustunderstand there are consequences for ignoring the crucial role these programs play in helping kids learn new skills, enjoy the outdoors, and understand the importance of conservation.”
“SCI Foundation has been dedicated to providing shooting sports and outdoor education programs since 1976,” said SCI and SCI Foundation CEO W. Laird Hamberlin. “Nearly 7,000 educators have been trained in conservation/outdoor education and shooting sports, reaching over 1 million children nationwide. In addition, the Foundation, as well as SCI chapters, have invested millions of dollars in funding archery, hunter education, and outdoor education in schools. The Department’s incorrect interpretation of this the BSCA has put all those programs in jeopardy.”
In addition to a suit, SCI is working with members of Congress to amend the law, to ensure misinterpretations like this cannot happen again. SCI’s Hunter Advocacy Action Center alert provides a direct link to contact Members of Congress, to demand urgent change.
The Department of Education has issued guidance on the BSCA to schools, stating that federal funds may not be used for training “any person,” including teachers or students, in “the use of a dangerous weapon.” The Department’s interpretation of the BSCA—a law intended to make schools safer by providing greater mental health support to students—would prohibit the use of federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act funding for supporting any program that includes archery or firearms training. This includes National Archery in Schools programs, as well as hunter education.