OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was signed into law by the president at the end of September. It fixed something that seemed to have gone wrong when it was passed last year.
Part of the act required modest gun control measures across the country. It also seems to have stopped federal school funds from being used to buy bows, guns, and other things.
President Joe Biden’s U.S. Department of Education read the law’s words to mean that schools could not get money for extracurricular activities like archery, hunting, and other shooting sports. That kind of program is very popular in some school districts, and a big part of the activities is making sure kids are safe.
In practice, when the department carried out a law that was supposed to make the community safer, it cut money from youth programs that were meant to teach safety in some way, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Republicans and Democrats scolded the Biden administration for this wrong interpretation.
“I don’t know why they interpreted the legislation the way they did,” said Kevin Donohoe, a press aide for Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. “The result brought significant bipartisan criticism.”
The fact that the Protecting Hunting and Heritage Act was passed by Congress almost unanimously shows how important it is. Mark E. Green, a Republican from Tennessee, introduced it in the U.S. House of Representatives on August 1. It quickly gained many supporters, including Rep. Bill Johnson.
Brown signed on as one of thirteen people who supported the Senate version of the bill.
The House bill passed in a 424-1 vote and the Senate unanimously approved the legislation.
Advocates for the responsible use of guns and archery equipment were pleased that Congress fixed the error.
“We appreciate the quick and decisive action taken by Congress to correct language that negatively impacted youth hunter education, archery, and shooting sports programs in our schools,” Kendra Wecker, chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, wrote in an emailed response. “These are important education activities for Ohio’s students who have shown improved grades and school attendance when mentored in these programs.”
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership pointed out that without the fix “millions of students who participate in archery programs, hunter education classes, wilderness and outdoor classes, and school-sponsored target shooting teams” would have lost access to the programs.
Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn said in a statement: “Educational enrichment programs like hunting and archery are critical to our next generation’s development and well-being, and this legislation would ensure they remain available in schools across the nation.”
Arizona Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said: “School-based archery and hunting safety courses help Arizona students learn and grow while enjoying the outdoors. We’re ensuring the Administration follows the law we wrote so Arizonans can continue to benefit from these educational courses. The Department of Education wrongly interpreted the language of our Bipartisan Safer Communities law. We’re holding the Administration accountable and ensuring they follow our law so students can continue to enjoy school-based hunting and archery programs in Arizona and across the country.”
North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis said: “The Biden Administration’s partisan interpretation of BSCA to eliminate hunting education in schools is a slap in the face to millions of Americans, particularly in rural areas, and discourages bipartisan cooperation in Congress. Hunting education programs have wide bipartisan support in Congress, and I encourage my colleagues to quickly pass this legislation to ensure gun-grabbing Biden officials have no room for misinterpretation.”
“When you see Democrats and Republicans coming together and the speed at which this legislation was crafted, supported, voted on, approved, and signed, I think it shows how many people in this country care about the outdoors, young people, shooting sports, and the future of conservation in America,” Tommy Floyd, president of the National Archery in the Schools Program, said in an interview with The Center Square.