Hunter education, archery and shooting-related school programs amount to “training in the use of a dangerous weapon,” so money for them should be cut, say federal officials.
That worries Brad Smith, who coaches the Cheyenne East High School clay target shooting team.
Although his team doesn’t get any money from the school district, it is promoted through the school, and losing that support would hurt, he told Cowboy State Daily.
“It does worry me,” he said about the proposal to cut federal money for shooting sports. “Our school district, Laramie County School District 1, has been 100% supportive. Although they don’t financially support us, they are completely supportive by letting us use the East High name.”
He added that removing these programs from public high schools altogether is a bad idea.
“It may come down to where we can’t promote it (trap and skeet shooting) though the school,” he said. “And that would make it difficult, because how can your recruit for the team if you can’t recruit through the school?”
Congressional Fight Brewing
The move to cut funding from school shooting sports comes as the popularity of clay pigeon shooting teams is growing rapidly, Smith said.
“It is still the fastest-growing individual high school sport that there is,” he said.
The proposed funding cuts were piggybacked on the federal 2022 Safer Communities Act, which came in response to school shootings and received wide bipartisan support.
Cutting money for school programs that allegedly provide “dangerous weapon” training would help create a safer and more positive environment in schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
The Biden administration has shown a pattern of hostility toward hunting and gun ownership, Mark Jones of Buffalo told Cowboy State Daily.
“He (Biden) is trying to slow down participation rates and stop young people from being exposed to these hunting-related activities,” said Jones, who is the national director of hunter outreach for Gun Owners of America (GOA). “I guess it’s just another battel in Biden’s war on hunters.”
Although it’s increasingly rare for hunter education courses to be directly funded by school districts or to take place in school buildings, many school districts still actively promote hunter education, particularly in rural states like Wyoming, he said.
He added that cutting funding for archery programs, which are still a common part of physical education across the country, seems especially preposterous.
“It’s wholesome. It’s safe,” he said.
GOA and plans to push back against the funding cuts, Jones said, and he expects other hunting and gun rights groups will join in.
“We’re going to ramp up some resistance to this in Congress,” Jones said.
A Great Place For Kids
Trap and skeet shooting provides a place for high school students who might not be able to participate in more traditional sports, Smith said.
“It’s an outlet for kids who don’t play football, or those who don’t play soccer or participate it track. There’s still a sport for them,” he said.
They Cheyenne East High team has held its own against well-funded teams from other states, Smith said — something he’s extremely proud of.
“We came in seventh at nationals this year in Mason, Michigan. We were seventh in the nation out of 242 participating schools,” he said. “We compete against teams from places like Illinois that are funded through the schools and have paid coaches, teams that practice shooting four days a week.”
Smith said he hopes that the proposed funding cuts don’t ruin his beloved sport. He thinks it will continue to thrive in Wyoming, where there’s hope of forming teams at the community college level.
“I think we’re going to be sheltered from (funding cuts) here because of where we live. I’m not a paid member of the school district. We’re considered more of a club sport and not an actual school athletic team,” he said.
Even so, at the national level it could be a different story.
“The wokeism is ruining America,” Smith said.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.