Most of the time I hate the "boys will be boys" gender stereotype because, of course, girls can play with water guns too. But we are talking about a boys-only organization here. Boys Scouts of America seems hell-bent on sucking the fun out of boyish playtime, in favor of living up to the kind Scout reputation.
In a recent blog post for Scouting Magazine, safety expert Bryan Wendell says "water guns OK for target shooting, not for firing at other Scouts." Wendell reminds Scout parents of the BSA policy that prohibits pointing a simulated firearm at another person. This includes water guns and rubber band guns, intended to be used only for target practice while wearing eye protection, according to the manual.
Wendell writes, "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?'"
Oh, and Boy Scout safety rules also ban really big water balloons (the only fun kind). Boy Scout water balloon play must be tiny and purposeless now, with a size limit no larger than a ping-pong ball. Talk about a buzzkill.
If you have fond memories of 1950s Boy Scouts, where kids trekked through the wilderness and killed their own food, it's time to let those memories die. Other unauthorized Boy Scout activities may include crossbows, bottle rockets, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, cannons, boomerangs and spears.
BSA director of communications Daron Smith points out to the Huffington Post that these guidelines are nothing new. Boy Scouts have never been allowed to point toy guns at one another — Safe Scouting dictates that any kind of gun should be pointed at a target and not a person.
This I understand. We are living in a modern world where parents are more likely to freak out and sue or take a troubling story to the internet — I write about it every day of the week. The Boy Scouts are trying to instill an important gun safety rule in young, impressionable boys: You never point any kind of weapon at another person. Every time we read about another senseless gun accident in the news, we wonder why parents weren't more careful with their weapons. Though this rule seems ridiculous, it is teaching a much broader lesson.
But at least give these boys back their big water balloons. Let's be real — in any kind of boyish roughhousing, ping pong ball-shaped water balloons just aren't going to cut it. Boys, and indeed all kids, need some kind of safe outlet for their aggression. Kindness is an important principle to instill in young Scouts, but it isn't going to keep these boys entertained.
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