Democrats hailed the passage of the first federal gun safety legislation in decades last year. Now, several of them are tearing into the Biden administration over the measure’s effect on school archery programs. As the law is being implemented, a rift has emerged between the administration and rural-state Democrats. They’re at odds over guidance issued by the Department of Education that a pot of federal dollars would be prohibited from going to school archery and hunting programs, Politico reports. The guidance angered Democrats from red states, where those programs are popular in schools. It also has agitated Republicans who helped negotiate the legislation. Both argue the Education Department is misinterpreting Congress’ intent and that the administration has shown little willingness to work on the issue.
“The Department of Education is just over their skis on this and has not been channeling congressional intent,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM). The agency “has been more than a little tone-deaf on this and not as responsive as I would like to see.” The debate that has ensued is now cutting at a longtime intraparty divide between Democrats from states with a long heritage of hunting and the progressive corners of the party that back strict gun control measures. Beyond Heinrich, Democrats who signed on to a recent letter asking the Education Department to reconsider their read of the law include Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania — all of whom are up for reelection this year. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, one of the most vulnerable Democrats in a red state, has introduced a bipartisan bill to restore the funding, which he hopes will be added to a government spending bill. He said the administration “has this one flat-out wrong” and chastised “D.C. bureaucrats who don’t understand rural America.”