- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Boy Scouts of America, an organization with semi-military origins, has put out approved activities for its members, and water gun fights are strictly prohibited.

A blog for the organization’s leaders said May 6 that pointing simulated firearms at people is not allowed.

“Why the rule? A Scouter once told me this explanation I liked quite a bit: A Scout is kind. What part of pointing a firearm [simulated or otherwise] at someone is kind?” said Bryan Wendell on the scouting website.

The rule is clarified in the Boy Scouts of America National Shooting Manual, which says “For water balloons, use small, biodegradable balloons, and fill them no larger than a ping pong ball. […] Water guns and rubber band guns must only be used to shoot at targets, and eye protection must be worn.”

The manual includes a lengthy list of other prohibited items — boomerangs, crossbows, potato guns, spear guns and throwing stars. Scouts also may not use “marshmallow shooters that require placing a straw or similar device in the mouth.”

The Scouting movement began in the early 20th century Britain under the tutelage of Lt. Gen. Robert Baden-Powell, who wrote the first “Scouting for Boys” manual.

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Baden-Powell learned from his military experiences in India and southern Africa that young soldiers often lacked outdoor-survival skills. He also cited the Mafeking Cadet Corps, a group of adolescent and pre-adolescent boys that he used to great success during the Second Boer War siege of that town. The boys eagerly took on such essential military duties as couriers and intelligence, freeing older soldiers for more-demanding tasks.

Numerous critical journalists and bloggers noted that Scouting when they were boys included such activities as bottle rockets, wooden sword fights and Midnight Football, which a Gawker author described as “a sort of combat rugby played in blackout conditions on a hard tile floor.”

Negative feedback flowed into the comments section of the blog, complaining of political correctness, of “turning boys into a bunch of wusses,” and of an out-of-touch national leadership.

“This makes BSA look ridiculous and has little if any impact on safety,” said Gary Holeiwnski.

“Sometimes I just have to laugh out loud at how idiotic some things in our society have become. We can’t squirt each other with water guns because it is a ‘simulated’ gun. I can’t believe BSA is so worried about the PC police that it has a policy like this,” added commenter Gary USMC.

“Yes, let’s carry every policy to the absurd extreme. That will certainly help scouts shed that geeky image,” added another commenter.

The Boy Scouts of America National Shooting Manual guidelines are to be followed by anyone involved with Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Venturing, Sea Scouting, or shooting sports committees, the document adds.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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