The U.S. House of Representatives passed the “The Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act” late last night. This bill would allow federal funds to be used by elementary and secondary schools for educational purposes like hunter’s ed, archery classes, and culinary arts, even if those courses involve “dangerous weapons.”
Bill sponsor Rep. Mark Green argued that the legislation was necessary to protect funding for these courses in the wake of the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA).
“The Biden administration’s reckless misinterpretation of the Safer Communities Act unfairly targeted archery and shooting sports in K-12 schools,” he said in a speech on the House floor. “Democrats and Republicans agree, the Biden administration missed the target—by a long shot. Under the Department of Education’s current interpretation of the law, other school activities like fencing and the culinary arts would also be at risk. This is unacceptable.”
Passed last year, the BSCA amended existing federal law to prohibit some federal education funds from being used for training someone “in the use of a dangerous weapon.” An official with the the Department of Education (DOE) told state educators that this prohibition would apply to extracurricular courses at elementary and secondary schools.
While it’s unclear how many schools and programs would have been impacted by this interpretation, U.S. legislators from both sides of the aisle condemned the DOE and called on the agency to change its interpretation.
When that didn’t happen, they introduced H.R. 5110, which passed the House on a near-unanimous 424-1 vote. The Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to clarify that the prohibition on the use of Federal education funds for certain weapons does not apply to the use of such weapons for training in archery, hunting, other shooting sports, or culinary arts. (Culinary arts were included because federal law defines dangerous weapons to include knives with blades longer than 2.5 inches.)
The legislation secured both Democrat and Republican sponsors in the House, and the only representative to vote against it was Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from El Paso, Texas.
The Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act appears poised to pass the U.S. Senate as well. The legislation is sponsored by Independent Senator Krysten Sinema along with Republican Senators Tom Tillis and Shelley Capito. What’s more, 15 additional senators signed a letter earlier this month urging Senate appropriators to reverse the DOE’s interpretation. These included Republicans like Senators John Cornyn and Joni Enst as well as Democrats like Senators Chris Murphy and Amy Klobuchar.
“School-based archery and hunting safety courses help Arizona students learn and grow while enjoying the outdoors,” Sinema said. “House-passage of our bill moves us one step closer to ensuring the Administration follows the law we wrote so Arizonans can continue to benefit from these educational courses.”
The bill was introduced in the Senate on September 18 but has not been assigned to a committee. President Joe Biden has not indicated whether he will sign the bill if it passes the Senate. We will post updates here as the bill progresses.
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