New federal law modifies 2022 Safer Communities Act to allow archery in schools

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(The Center Square) — More than a million students in 49 states will be able to participate in school archery programs using “dangerous weapons” after bipartisan legislation sailed through U.S. Congress and was signed into law by President Joe Biden.

The “Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act” passed with unanimous consent in the Senate and a 424-1 vote in the House of Representatives in September. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, was the only vote against the act.

When President Biden signed the bill into law last week, it amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to allow schools to use federal education funds to purchase “dangerous weapons” to train students in archery and other shootings sports, as well as culinary arts.

“When you see Democrats and Republicans coming together and the speed at which this legislation was crafted, supported, voted on, approved and signed, I think it shows how many people in this country care about the outdoors, young people, shooting sports and the future of conservation in America,” Tommy Floyd, president of the National Archery in the Schools Program, said in an interview with The Center Square.

The new law modifies the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was enacted in June 2022 a few weeks after 19 children and two adults were shot and killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The act included prohibiting federal education funds from being used “for the provision to any person of a dangerous weapon’’ or ‘‘training in the use of a dangerous weapon,’’ according to a summary of the new law. Federal law defines a “dangerous weapon” as ‘‘a weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance, animate or inanimate, that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury, except that such term does not include a pocketknife with a blade of less than 2 1/2 inches in length.’’

A bipartisan group of senators agreed the 2022 act didn’t intend to restrict use of federal funds on educational programs when students use “dangerous weapons” for archery, hunting and culinary arts classes.

“All these people in Congress were faced with an incredible task,” Floyd said. “They needed to be responsive for the terrible things happening with these school shootings. They all brought to the table, I believe, their best effort to provide safer situations for schools. I don’t think there’s any politics in this and I don’t care whether you’re Republican or Democrat. You care about kids because you care about people.”

Floyd’s organization has 1.3 million in active student archers in the U.S. and a few other countries.

More than 250,000 students in grades four through 12 in more than 800 schools in Missouri participate in the Missouri National Archery in the Schools Program, according to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation. Missouri’s annual archery tournament is the second-largest state tournament in the nation.

Colorado holds a statewide virtual archery tournament on individual school grounds and is supported by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Scores from school tournaments are sent to the state and compiled to determine winners.

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