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Congress saves hunting, sport shooting and other safety training from potential federal funding cuts

A participant in a National Archery in the Schools Program competition.
Florida Fish and Wildlife
Flickr Creative Commons
A participant in a National Archery in the Schools Program competition.

News brief: 

Congress has voted nearly unanimously to protect hunter, archery and sport shooting safety education in schools. Many lawmakers have been worried that these programs would lose federal funding due to recent legislation signed by President Biden.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which passed last year, was designed to stop gun violence and improve mental health across the country. Part of the law bans federal funding for schools that provide training for “dangerous weapons,” which stops, for instance, money from being used to train teachers to use guns or to hire cops in schools.

“Dangerous weapon,” however, is defined as a device “that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury,” according to the Department of Education.

Due to that language in the law, programs for hunter education – or even outdoor skills courses that use large knives or axes – seemed to face an uncertain future. Many conservatives said this was a deliberate attack from the Biden Administration on constitutional rights and rural communities. Others chalked the situation up to a misinterpretation of the law.

Now, the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act seeks to clarify that hunter, archery and sport shooting safety programs will retain support.

In recent congressional testimony, Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, highlighted the National Archery in the Schools Program, which has enrolled millions of Americans.

“Forty percent of these students claimed to be more engaged in the classroom and a remarkable 91 percent pursued or expressed a desire to pursue other outdoor activities,” he said. “Hunting and archery programs provide more than dexterity and mental skills. They foster character development, a sense of responsibility and profound connection with the beauty of our nation.”

In the House of Representatives, there was only one vote against the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act, and the Senate passed it unanimously. It now heads to President Biden’s desk, where it is expected to be signed.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Walkey is a contributing journalist and former reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.
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