Moderate members of both political parties are criticizing the Biden Administration for its recent move to defund longstanding scholastic archery and hunter education programs under a recently passed gun control law.
The programs, which have no demonstrable connection to crime or violence, are the latest innocent victims of the misnamed Bi-Partisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA).
The episode reinforces two critically important lessons that any pro-gun legislator should remember. One: there is no such thing as harmless gun control. Two: Moderates who join forces with anti-gun extremists will eventually be embarrassed by the partnership.
The BSCA was passed last summer over the NRA’s objections, with proponents congratulating themselves on their “bi-partisan” achievement. As we warned at the time: “This bill leaves too much discretion in the hands of government officials and also contains undefined and overbroad provisions – inviting interference with our constitutional freedoms.”
We have already explained how the infamously anti-gun Biden Administration is abusing authorities established under the BSCA to implement de facto waiting periods on certain firearm purchases, fund unconstitutional firearm seizure schemes, and curtail private firearm transfers. These steps have caused supporters of the law who are not reflexively hostile to the Second Amendment to complain the administration is misinterpreting its provisions. But if anti-gunners can interpret the individual right to keep and bear arms out of the Second Amendment itself, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the far more ambiguous language of the BSCA could be twisted to nefarious ends.
The latest issue arises out of an obscure provision of the BSCA that amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). That act is the “primary source of federal aid for elementary and secondary education” and is meant ““to strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunities in the Nation’s elementary and secondary schools.”
The BSCA amendment prohibited use of funds under ESEA for “the provision to any person of a dangerous weapon, as defined in section 930(g)(2) of title 18, or training in the use of a dangerous weapon.” While the provision did not gain much attention, it was commonly understood to impose a ban on using ESEA funds to arm and train teachers or other school personnel in the use of firearms as a counter-measure to armed attacks on schools.
That limitation would be bad enough, but pro-gun supporters of the law could have relied on the argument that ESEA funds were not widely used for this purpose, if they had been used at all, to claim that it was not a material loss to the firearm cause.
But in a display of pure treachery and anti-gun and anti-hunting opportunism, the Biden Department of Education — which administers grant programs under ESEA – publicly announced that the language also prohibited the use of funds for archery, hunting, and any other firearm-related program in schools. This would represent a huge loss to America’s students, millions of whom take advantage of these programs for education, instruction in basic skills, opportunities for outdoor recreation, competition, and to learn how to safely and responsibly use the equipment involved. Such programs represent what have traditionally been the most uncontroversial and unifying aspects of America’s hunting, firearm, and outdoor recreation traditions.
But that just goes to show that no aspect of the country’s outdoor sporting tradition is safe from the ambitions of the firearms prohibition lobby, no matter how harmless or indeed beneficial in promoting safe and responsible behavior. Anyone who allies themselves with these forces, even for the supposedly limited purposes of addressing crime and violence, can no longer claim ignorance of this fact.
Supporters of the BSCA on both sides of the aisle have pushed back against the Department of Education’s interpretation of the law in letters and public statements. Legislation has also been introduced to clarify the language at issue to ensure it cannot be read to “prohibit the use of funds … for purposes of training students in archery, hunting, or other shooting sports.
The NRA supports these efforts and strongly advocates for restoration of funding opportunities for these programs.
We also hope that the hard lessons learned from BSCA-related overreach will not be lost on pro-gun legislators who were too quick to trust “allies” who readily abandoned ideas of bipartisan consensus to resume their prohibitory agenda.
Read Related: Biden Administration’s Attack on Youth Hunting
Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess, and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit: www.nra.org