ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Federal funding for school hunter safety and archery programs could be denied by the U.S. Department of Education, and Virginia Congressman Ben Cline (R-6th District) calls it a case of government overreach.
Shooting sports education programs are eligible for funding under the Secondary Education Act of 1965. However, the Department of Education interprets a newer law, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), to ban such funding.
The BSCA was passed in 2022 in response to school shootings and mass shootings around the country. One of its provisions calls for safe school environments, and Department of Education officials have interpreted that to mean no shooting sports programs in schools.
“It makes me furious,” said Cline. “It’s just another example of the D.C. bureaucracy getting in the way of long traditions like the ones in our community where we have long-standing hunter education and hunter safety programs that involve the schools.”
Experts say shooting sport safety courses actually reduce the risk of gun and weapons injuries.
“To put up roadblocks to funds just because we have these kinds of safety programs, it just doesn’t make any sense,” Cline said. “I’ve cosponsored legislation to make sure these hunting safety programs don’t remove the school district from being eligible for this important type of funding.”
Republicans and Democrats are speaking up and taking action to get the Department of Education to change its interpretation of the BSCA. Democrat Senator John Tester of Montana has also been outspoken against the department’s policy.
A number of schools in the Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Danville areas have hunter safety and archery programs. They are currently evaluating what the Department of Education’s actions could mean, but so far, they have not received word about whether their funding for those programs will be cut.