Sen. Jon Tester

It’s no secret that I don’t look like most of my colleagues in Washington DC. They don’t run a farm when they’re back home, you won’t find them swapping out duck foot shovels or greasing a combine, and to my knowledge no one else is missing a few fingers from an unlucky childhood run-in with a meat grinder while butchering meat on my family farm.

But beyond our differences in appearance, I’m always focused on bringing a healthy dose of Montana common sense and a lifetime of experience living in rural America with me to the halls of Congress. So when I found out that the Biden Administration was blocking funding from school programs that Montana students have relied on for generations, there was no question I had to stop them.

In Montana and across rural America, our schools have long offered shooting sports and hunter safety classes that teach our students gun safety and personal responsibility.

But recently the Biden Administration and folks in Washington who don’t understand our Montana values decided to block funding for these important gun safety programs. Let me be clear: I think that’s a poor decision that will hurt thousands of students who benefit from these resources every year.

That’s why I took immediate action to protect Montana’s outdoor heritage and force the Administration to reverse course on this senseless policy. My bipartisan Defending Hunters Education Act, which I introduced last week, would require the Department of Education to restore school districts’ ability to use federal dollars for school archery, gun safety, and hunter education programs. This commonsense bill will protect Montana’s longstanding and proud tradition of educating our future generations on the importance of responsible gun ownership and hunting – and it will only make our students and communities safer.

This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. In recent weeks my colleagues Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) have joined me in leading this bipartisan effort.

I have also made it crystal clear to the Biden Administration that any reduction of federal support for these educational programs is unacceptable. The Administration is misinterpreting the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), targeted legislation which Republicans and Democrats crafted to improve the safety and wellbeing of American students while protecting law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights. Limiting these important and long-established training classes does nothing to improve safety. Instead -- to put it bluntly -- the Administration has it completely backwards.

The bottom line is that anyone who has ever lived in rural America would know that shooting sports and hunting are simply part of our Montana way of life. Efforts to strip these school safety courses are just the latest example of folks in Washington not understanding our rural communities, and I’ll do everything in my power to stop them in their tracks.

Our Montana way of life is worth defending. It’s what I’ve always done, and it’s what I’ll continue to do.