FIRST ON FOX: Nearly two dozen Senate Republicans are calling on the Biden administration to withdraw its guidance to block funding for schools that have hunting and archery programs.
In a Friday letter sent to President Biden, Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso and 19 of his Republican colleagues in the upper chamber called for the administration to support hunter education and archery programs in schools across the country.
“We write to express our deep concern about the Biden Administration’s attempt to use the gun control bill passed last year to block funding for elementary and secondary schools,” the senators wrote in the letter. “We write to urge the administration to immediately reverse this misguided decision and ensure funding for these vital program is not withheld.”
“While the administration claims to be eliminating dangerous activities, this guidance will, in fact, have the opposite effect. These programs provided thousands of students with the opportunity to learn proper instruction for firearm and archery safety,” they continued in the letter led by Barrasso, who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee. “Over 500,000 students participate and are certified through hunter education courses each year. Learning to safely handle firearms results in a decrease in firearm related injuries and accidents.”
REPUBLICANS UNVEIL EFFORT TO CLAW BACK SCHOOL FUNDS BIDEN ADMIN IS HOLDING OVER HUNTING, ARCHERY CLASSES
GOP Sens. John Thune and Steve Daines look on as Sen. John Barrasso speaks to reporters at the Capitol on March 28, 2023 in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
“By including hunter education in schools, students are given the tools to be safe and responsible hunters,” the lawmakers added. “It is now clearer than ever that the Biden Administration will use the bill to attack the constitutional rights of Americans.”
Late last month, Fox News Digital reported the Education Department shared federal guidance to hunting education groups highlighting that hunting and archery programs in schools would be stripped of funding. The guidance explained that the administration interpreted the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) to mean such programs can no longer receive taxpayer funds.
In the guidance, obtained first by Fox News Digital, senior agency official Sarah Martinez wrote that archery, hunter education 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 and secondary education across the country.
According to advocates, many schools that offer such courses have already nixed them from curriculums due to the federal guidance.
A group of House Republicans led by Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., unveiled legislation Friday to reverse the Biden administration’s guidance.
Tenney — joined by Reps. Russ Fulcher, R-Idaho, Jim Banks, R-Ind., and Brandon Williams, R-N.Y. — plan to introduce the Protecting Hunting and Archery in Schools Act, which would remove the current federal restriction on funding hunting and archery programs.
NEARLY 70 REPUBLICANS PRESS BIDEN ADMIN OVER CRACKDOWN ON SCHOOL HUNTING, ARCHERY PROGRAMS
“The Biden administration continues to advance its radical anti-Second Amendment agenda by prohibiting ESEA funding for archery and shooting sports programs,” Tenney told Fox News Digital in a statement. “Upstate New York schools offer hunting, archery, and shooting sports programs to teach students how to responsibly handle firearms are respect our Second Amendment rights.”
“The Biden Administration’s attempt to defund these outdoor recreational programs is a power grab and flies in the face of Congressional intent,” she continued. “This important legislation will protect these popular after school programs and end the Biden Administration’s attack on our constitutional rights.”
GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. — along with GOP Reps. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and Richard Hudson, R-N.C. — recently led a letter signed by nearly 70 House Republicans, imploring Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to rescind the guidance.
In addition, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., who cosponsored the BSCA last year, have criticized the Biden administration for its decision to withhold funding for schools.
Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who were the two Republican sponsors of the BSCA, separately wrote a letter to Cardona, saying his agency was misinterpreting their legislation.
The BSCA — a bill that was criticized as a “gun control” bill, but touted by proponents as an effort to promote “safer, more inclusive and positive” schools — was passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law by President Biden in June 2022 after mass shootings at a grocery market in Buffalo, New York, and a school in Uvalde, Texas.
The Department of Education told Fox News Digital this week that it was open to again funding hunting education and archery programs which it acknowledged were “enrichment opportunities” for children. (Getty Images)
The law included an amendment to a subsection in the ESEA listing prohibited uses for federal school funding. That amendment prohibits ESEA funds from helping provide any person with a dangerous weapon or to provide “training in the use of a dangerous weapon,” but, according to the bill’s sponsors, was included to prevent ESEA funding for school resource officer training.
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On Wednesday, the Department of Education said it was available to assist Congress with crafting language in future legislation to reverse the guidance.
The Friday letter to Biden included the signatures and support of Sens. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., John Thune, R-S.D., Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., John Kennedy, R-La., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Rick Scott, R-Fla., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Steve Daines, R-Mont., Mike Braun, R-Ind., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Rand Paul, R-Ky., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.