Washington, D.C.— On September 14, 2023, Safari Club International (SCI), the West Michigan Bowhunters Chapter of SCI, and Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation (SAF) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education over its misinterpretation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA). The lawsuit challenges the Department’s misguided decision to prohibit the use of federal funds for shooting sports, hunter education, and outdoor education programs in schools.
Congress passed the BSCA last year to increase mental health resources available in schools and enhance school security. SCI, West Michigan Bowhunters, and SAF have taken this legal action to address their concerns that the Department’s implementation of the BSCA is deliberately misconstruing Congress’ intent and violating the spirit and letter of the law. Co-sponsors of the BSCA have consistently asserted that the law was never intended to restrict funding for these essential programs.
The lawsuit was filed after the organizations gave notice of intent to sue and requested a response from the Department, which went unanswered. Research has shown that shooting sports, hunter education, and outdoor education programs have real benefits for students’ mental and physical health while nurturing an abiding appreciation for the outdoors among the next generation of sportsmen and women. SCI and partners had to file this suit to protect these vital programs.
“SCI is deeply disappointed by the Biden administration’s refusal to rectify their clear misinterpretation of the BSCA,” said Ben Cassidy, SCI Executive Vice President of International Government and Public Affairs. “The Department must understand that there are consequences for ignoring these programs’ crucial role in helping students learn new skills, enjoy the outdoors, and understand the importance of conservation. SCI and its steadfast partners in the hunting community will continue to go to court and support legislative remedies to stop the Department’s anti-hunting agenda in its tracks.”
“SCI Foundation has been dedicated to providing shooting sports and outdoor education programs since 1976,” stated W. Laird Hamberlin, SCI and SCI Foundation CEO. “Nearly 7,000 educators have been trained in conservation/outdoor education and shooting sports, reaching over 1 million children nationwide. SCI will continue to support litigation and legislation that prevents the Biden administration from defunding hunting and archery programs via bureaucratic fiat.”
Along with the lawsuit, SCI is actively engaged with members of Congress to amend the law, ensuring that such misinterpretations cannot recur. SCI supports the Allowing for Recreational Resources for Outdoor Wellness (ARROW) Act, introduced by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), which would block the Biden administration’s plan to divert Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) funds away from schools with hunting and archery training programs. SCI has previously supported a similar bill in the House, sponsored by Rep. Mark Green (R-TN), and a resolution by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-IL) censuring the Department’s refusal to recognize congressional intent in defunding these programs.
SCI’s Hunter Advocacy Action Center alert provides a direct link to contact Members of Congress, urging them to amend the BSCA to ensure this threat to the future of hunting and shooting sports cannot be repeated.
The Department of Education has issued policy guidance on the BSCA to schools, stating that federal funds may not be used for training “any person,” including teachers or students, in “the use of a dangerous weapon.” The Department’s interpretation of the BSCA—a law intended to make schools safer by providing greater mental health support to students—would prohibit the use of federal ESEA funding for any program that includes archery or firearms training. This includes the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP), as well as hunter education.