I’ll say up front that I don’t exactly consider it a profile in courage for Democrats like Jon Tester and Joe Manchin, along with independent Kyrsten Sinema, to publicly criticize the Biden administration’s interpretation of a portion of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) that’s being used to strip funding for hunting and archery programs in public schools. None of the three dared to rebuke the ATF over its stabilizing brace rule when the Senate voted on a repeal measure a few weeks ago, which would have demonstrated a willingness to go against the Democratic grain on gun issues.
Chastising the Biden administration for using BSCA to block funding from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) towards in-school archery and hunter ed courses, on the other hand, is a much more politically safe position to take, while still allowing the senators to maintain an appearance of moderation when it comes to gun control.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., sent a letter Wednesday to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, urging him to reverse his agency’s interpretation of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA). The agency’s interpretation has resulted in funding for shooting sport activities earmarked under the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) being blocked across the country.
“In Montana, our schools have long offered shooting sport and hunter safety classes that play an important role in teaching safety and personal responsibility to students,” Tester stated in his letter. “Outdoor recreation is foundational to our western way of life and any reduction of federal support for these educational programs is unacceptable.”
As Fox News reports, Tester’s letter came shortly after Manchin and a spokeswoman for Sinema also criticized the Department of Education’s interpretation of the BSCA language, which states that no ESEA funds can be used for “training in the use of a dangerous weapon.” Most of the bill’s sponsors insist that the language was meant to prevent school districts from using the funds to train school resource officers (which is problematic in its own right), but the DoE maintains that since hunting and archery both use “dangerous weapons” the funding those programs have received under ESEA is now off limits.
“We agree with Sens. Cornyn and Tillis — this is not Congressional intent, hunting and archery classes should be eligible for funding and not penalized, and we are working with lawmakers on both sides and the Administration to ensure this gets fixed,” Hannah Hurley, a spokesperson for Sinema, told Fox News Digital.
“The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill that addressed gun violence and mental health in our schools,” Manchin told Fox News Digital in a statement Wednesday.
“Any defunding of schools who offer critical programs like archery and hunting clubs would be a gross misinterpretation of the legislation and yet another example of this Administration trying to advance their radical agenda with blatant disregard for the law,” he continued.
Where was this Manchin when the Senate voted on a measure to repeal the ATF’s radical re-defining of stabilizing brace-equipped pistols as “short barreled rifles”? Oh that’s right. He was voting to keep the ATF’s executive branch overreach in place, alongside Tester and every single Democrat in the Senate (as well as “independents” like Sinema and Angus King of Maine).
While I’m happy to see these senators speak out about stripping funding for hunter ed and archery programs, the truth is that the Biden administration has been abusing our Second Amendment rights since Day One, and this is just the latest example of the latent hostility towards the right to keep and bear arms in the White House. And let’s be honest; Tester, Manchin, and Sinema all have purely political reasons to go after the administration’s decision regardless of how they really feel about stripping funding.
All three are up for re-election next year and all face significant political headwinds, with Manchin and Tester representing ruby-red states and Sinema declaring her status as an independent last December. Manchin’s also been floated as a potential third-party presidential candidate, but even if that doesn’t come to fruition none of three can return to D.C. for another six-year term without winning the support of Republican voters in their states. Their opposition to the administration’s interpretation may be sincere, but it could just as easily be an attempt to show their “moderate” stance on gun issues heading into 2024.
As for the funding itself, if Cardona doesn’t reverse course there’s an effort underway in Congress to restore the money to those school districts impacted by the administration’s latest anti-2A bigotry.
Rep. Mark Green’s, R-Tenn., legislation — the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act — would amend the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to clarify school programs “training students in archery, hunting, or other shooting sports” are eligible for funding. The legislation comes after a Fox News Digital report showing the Biden administration has started withholding funds for such classes.
“Letting Washington bureaucrats, sitting in a half-empty air-conditioned building in the Swamp, make arbitrary decisions about what kids in Tennessee should and should not learn is the antithesis of federalism,” Green, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, told Fox News Digital.
It would be nice to see that legislation fast-tracked when Congress returns from its August recess in order to get this funding restored as soon as possible, though it’s still an open question as to whether there’s enough support in the Senate to get the bill to Biden’s desk, much less whether he would sign the measure into law. For now Cardona is standing firm, and Biden himself hasn’t uttered a peep about the funds being stripped from cash-strapped schools and kids being kept from potentially live-saving education and training.