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Nearly 70 Republicans press Biden admin over crackdown on school hunting, archery programs

FIRST ON FOX: Dozens of Republicans led by Rep. Elise Stefanik are joining a chorus of voices calling on the Education Department to reverse its decision to defund hunting classes.

FIRST ON FOX: A group of 66 House Republicans are calling on the Department of Education to reverse guidance blocking federal funding for school archery and hunter education courses taught nationwide.

The lawmakers — led by GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., Education and Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C. — penned a letter Friday morning to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, criticizing him for his agency's recent guidance. In the letter, they argued such courses are longstanding and promote safety.

"These scholastic programs are where millions of kids learn safe and responsible firearm handling and storage, and this egregious, irresponsible overreach by your Department will have far-reaching negative consequences," the Republicans wrote. "Eliminating this funding through executive ‘interpretation’ of law flies in the face of congressional intent." 

"Your actions to advance a radical Far-Left anti-gun agenda are not only an abuse of executive power but eliminate the opportunity for kids to learn important skills, safety, and life lessons," the letter continued. 


They added in the letter that hunting and archery education programs have long enjoyed bipartisan support. And the Republicans noted the programs have "near unblemished safety records" while simultaneously providing valuable opportunities for American children "to learn about the outdoors and develop useful skills."

Fox News Digital reported last week the Education Department shared federal guidance to hunting education groups highlighting the funding decision earlier this year, sparking concerns about the future of hunting and archery programs in schools. The guidance stated 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 utilize 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.


"This is the most recent example of a series of Far Left pushes by the Biden Administration and Education Secretary Cardona in the name of their partisan political agenda," Stefanik told Fox News Digital in a statement. 

"Despite long standing bipartisan congressional support, the Department of Education has decided to eliminate the opportunity for millions of American students to exercise their second amendment right by safely learning to use firearms and participate in recreational shooting sports," she continued.

The BSCA — which 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 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.


"President Biden has weaponized the Department of Education to defund certain activities that do not conform to his liberal bias," Foxx said in a statement. "Hunting and archery programs give millions of students the opportunity to learn about the outdoors, the heritage of hunting, and how to handle a firearm or bow safely."

"These programs build stronger communities and for this administration to say otherwise just goes to show how out of touch it really is with the American people," the Education Committee chair added. "This is a cheap attack on Americans’ Constitutional rights — specifically for responsible hunters and gun owners — ahead of next year’s election."

In response to the federal guidance, BSCA sponsors Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., have stated the Education Department is misinterpreting their legislation and should reverse course. The other sponsor Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., hasn't responded to requests for comment.

And both Republicans and Democrats have blasted the administration over the guidance. In addition to Sinema, Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, have all been critical of the Education Department.

"I’m proud to stand with Reps. Stefanik, Foxx and 64 others to call on Secretary Cardona and the Biden Admin to stop this war on sports shooting education immediately," Hudson told Fox News Digital on Friday. 

"These programs give our future conservationists and sportsmen and women new opportunities and passions, while teaching public safety, self-esteem, teamwork, and interpersonal skills."

In a statement, the Department of Education said it will continue to implement the law as developed by Congress, but is "open to engagement" from lawmakers regarding changes to BSCA statutory language.

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