Why it matters: Hunter education, archery in schools, wilderness courses, and other outdoor focused school activities provide unmatched enrichment opportunities for students from all walks of life. These programs provide critical life skills for students and, according to teachers engaged with these programs, student participation has been correlated with improvements in academic performance, behavior, and school attendance. The dual-pronged approach of a Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus letter paired with a Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and NGO partner letter demonstrates the uniqueness of CSF to advance the interests of sportsmen and women in the nation’s capital.
- When the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) was signed into law in June 2022, the bill included language that prohibited training in the use of a “dangerous weapon”, which is having the unintended consequence of limiting important school programs such as hunter education, archery in schools, wilderness courses, among many other enrichment programs.
- Last week, the House Leaders of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), one of the largest and most active bipartisan Caucuses on Capitol Hill, sent a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to encourage the Department of Education to revisit the legislative intent of the BSCA.
- Later in the week, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and 40 of the nation’s leading hunting, wildlife conservation, and recreational shooting organizations also sent a letter to Secretary Cardona with a near identical ask as the House CSC Leaders.
In June 2022, the BSCA was signed into law, which included language that amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to prohibit ESEA funds from being used for training school personnel in the use of a “dangerous weapon”, which is defined in federal statute as “a weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance, animate or inanimate, that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury, except that such term does not include a pocket knife with a blade of less than 2½ inches in length”. Unfortunately, this sweeping definition is impacting many programs that are foundational to our sporting heritage such as wilderness courses, archery in schools, hunter education, school sponsored shooting teams, etc. Unfortunately, because of the plain definition of “dangerous weapon”, the BSCA language is limiting the funding opportunities for the aforementioned school programs that are critically important activities for America’s youth.
On August 22, the House CSC Leaders, Co-Chairs Reps. Bruce Westerman (AR) and Jimmy Panetta (CA) and Vice-Chairs Reps. Garret Graves (LA) and Jared Golden (ME), sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to request the Department of Education to revisit the legislative intent of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to restore funding for various outdoor programs. Two days later, CSF and 40 of the leading sporting-conservation organizations sent a letter to the Department with a nearly identical request as the CSC House Leaders.
While CSF strongly encourages the Department of Education to follow the legislative intent of the BSCA, CSF believes that, at a minimum, the Department of Education should publicly commit to working with Congress to address this issue generated from the BSCA.
CSF will continue to work to see this issue addressed in a timely manner through either a revised Administrative interpretation or a legislative fix to amend the BSCA and ESEA.