The Biden Agenda Misses the Mark (Again)
By Sen. John Thune
Pheasant season. Deer season. Turkey season. There’s plenty of opportunities in South Dakota to get outdoors and partake in our state’s hunting tradition. Hunting is a part of our way of life, our traditions, and our economy. South Dakotans know that, but the Biden administration has once again proved itself to be wildly out of touch with reality in rural America. Case in point, the Biden administration’s latest instance of overreach by denying federal funding for school hunting and archery education programs.
Last year, the president signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law. I opposed this bill for several reasons. Among them was a concern about how the Biden administration would implement the bill to advance its far-left agenda. This concern proved to be well-founded when the administration interpreted a straightforward provision, which mentions neither archery nor hunting, to block funding for archery and hunting education programs, something it was never intended to do.
Hunting and archery programs enrich our cherished hunting tradition and add value to students’ educations in South Dakota and across the country. The National Archery in the Schools Program is in nearly 9,000 schools in 49 states. It provides 1.3 million students the opportunity to experience archery and its benefits, sometimes for the first time. Nine in 10 students pursue or want to pursue other outdoor activities because of the program.
Hunting programs, like South Dakota’s HuntSAFE for Schools program, have similarly positive results. HuntSAFE uses nonfunctional guns to teach kids about hunting with “an emphasis on firearm safety and responsibility.” Learning to safely handle firearms decreases firearm-related injuries and accidents, and hunting education programs have contributed to a steep decline in hunting accidents.
I’m at a loss to explain why the Biden administration would seek to deny federal funding to these programs. Funding programs like these seems like a good thing to do to promote safer communities. Schools should have the choice of spending their federal funding on programs that unquestionably meet the goal of helping to offer students a well-rounded educational experience. Unfortunately, there are already reports of schools canceling plans for these programs in their curricula as a result of this policy.
To ensure students are able to access the benefits of archery and hunting programs in their school, I’ve joined several of my Senate colleagues in urging the Biden administration to reverse its decision. I’ve also introduced legislation that would prevent this prohibition from going into effect and to clarify that federal funding can support sports clubs, teams, trainings, and other curricular and extracurricular programs for students.
Hunting is an institution in rural communities. Growing up in Murdo, my dad taught my siblings and me how to bag roosters. Hunting taught us about patience and perseverance. And it taught us to appreciate the land and the importance of safety when handling firearms. I cherish those memories, and I keep up the family tradition with my siblings and sons-in-law. I’m not surprised the Biden administration doesn’t quite understand how we do things in South Dakota, but I wish they would stop interfering with our way of life. I’ll continue fighting against the Biden administration’s overreach to protect the rights of individuals and, in this case, local communities.