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Guide to Safe Scouting Question

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Proud Eagle, I confess to being the source of your confusion. I was raving and ranting in response to popcorn anxiety and I related the discussion to 'Ghost Busters' and some language peculiarities (Two great nations separated by a common language). I apologize. Popcorn sale is over now and I hope things are back to normal.

Bob White and FScouter, nicely said.

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Packsaddle's reply just came up so I guess we're both on here at the same time, in real time. However, the time stamp is 6:45 p.m. today, which puts Packsaddle somewhere in Europe?, 8 hours after est at 10:00 am here on the Eastern Seabord in DE. Interesting, though off the point.

Anyway, I was referring to Packsaddle's comment of 10/24 with that marshmellow comment.

The Baseball imagery was a reference to the fine line we are trying to define here. In reality if you're in possession of a baseball bat in your car, and not obviously in route to a game, you are in possession of a deadly weapon in most police jurisdictions. You might as well carry a .44 as it's the same charge.

F Scouter has in the most recent post, again as in the previous, defined the situation and I agree with premise and the way its presented.

I disagree with deleting the term "value." In math we describe numeric value with positive and negative representation. Character value is you either have it or you don't and I add, here: a negative value as in math. If an individual doesn't share our values we comment, 'they have no values.' or 'they have BAD values'

Somewhere society being p.c. or imbellishing the 'ego feel good' approach in parenting i.e "your a good boy, you just did a bad thing," will forgoes any attempt to discover why the act was done; so that a negative value can found and be addressed. We learn values from those around us. If we grow up in an environnment where shooting people is o.k., for example you're a Hatfield or a McCoy, why unless taught otherwise, you'll embrace that value as o.k. while the rest of civilized society will say you had bad values, or no value. Note the Romans, oh so civilized, sent thousands to their death in glatorial spectacles for the mere amusement of their citizens. Today we go to the movies and can see the same gore for $7.00 or $5.00 at the matinee. Values vary according to the society. F Scouter pointed out we don't value killing people and we all agree. Squirt GUN fights paintball GUNs..'a rose by any other name is still a rose,' Gertrude Stein.

I guess the object of the games we play and the status of those who don't win i.e. are out, dead, disqualified, loser, etc. would define our stamp of appropriate activity. Something to think about! In Scouting, I remain DAve J!

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Dave J,


I am not really certain if we are in conflict on the substance of the issue. Perhaps we are, but I don't really think so.




The reason I do not use the term value is that I do not think of "not pointing guns at people" as a moral value by itself. Pointing guns at people for no reason could be a negative value, but I would think it would be the product of bad or lacking values, rather than the presence of the "point guns at peole" value. I would agree with placing a "value", as in a measure of worth, on activities.


If someone fully embraces and lives up to the values of the Scout Oath and Law, they will not point guns at people without cause. They certainly wouldn't intentionally shoot someone without a justification. I would even say they wouldn't point a paintball marker at someone without a reason. There is no need for a 13th point in the Scout Law: a Scout is "not pointing guns at other people".


If a person does not believe in being curteous, kind, helpful, friendly they may be far more likely to point a gun at someone. Values guide actions. Rules govern behavior. If a person does something wrong, it could be for any of three reasons. 1. They may have failed to live up to the values they hold. 2. They may not hold any values that prevent the action. 3. They may have values that make what is wrong seem to be right to them.


Scouting should teach values that are universal in their application. I think we have all agreed that painball and laser tag are banned for reasons other than safety. That would lead to the posibility that they were banned because of being in conflict with the values of Scouting. However, under close examination, I think we can determine that is not so. The values we teach should be applicable to life, not just to Scouting events. Do we want to teach Scouts that is is wrong to play paintball and laser tag? If that is a value we hold, then we should be teaching them to not partake of those activities under any circumstance. The rule itself indicates there is no absolute "no pointing guns at people" value, because of the exception for law enforcement training.


That lead us to the posibility that not pointing guns at people is the expression of, or the outcome produced by, the values of Scouting. That I will agree with as a general theory. However, it is not an absolute. If multiple people agree to engage in a game of paintball or laser tag and then point a "gun" at each other in the process of doing so, are they in conflict with any of the values of Scouting? I do not think so. Point out the part of the Scout Oath or Law they violated. Tell me in what way they are doing something that is unsafe?


There are only five possible valid reason why painball and laser tag were banned, after eliminating the core values of Scouting as a possibility.


1. They produce excessive risk of injury that would then require BSA to compensate the injured parties. I have seen no evidence that either of those activities carries a very high risk of injury. If there is data to support this, then I could see the point. I am not certain I would agree with the decision, but I would at least understand the reason.


2. The fear that Scouts are not mature enough for the activity. We think they are too young to understand the difference between pointing a somewhat gun like device at another person as part of a safe game, and pointing a real gun at someone for no reason. Perhaps this could send the wrong message, but I think the considerable effort by BSA to teach gun safety, and perhaps a bit of augmentation with extra reinforcing messages about the didderence between a toy and weapon, could make that very clear. So I don't think we really want to go down the road of branding the leaders of our program as being so immature that they cannot understand the difference between playing a game with willing participants under a controlled setting, and shooting up their school and classmates.

I suppose you could also argue that the Scouts are not mature enough to play by the rules on their own time. If we teach them to play paintball, next thing we know, they will be doing it in the street, hitting other people, not wearing masks themselves, and end up putting out someones eye. That logic would require us to ban many of the activities of Scouting. ("next thing you know, they will be swimming without lifeguards", "they will be shooting arrows all over the neighborhood", "they will build a shoddy tower"...)


4. We are afraid that one of our Scouts will do something with a vaguely gun like object that will place him in an unsafe position, or get them into trouble, outside of Scouting. I suppose you could argue that playing paintball could increase the chances of someone being mistaken for an armed criminal and shot by the police or another citizen. I certainly hope our fellow citizens and our law enforcement aren't so trigger happy and irresponsible as that, but if they are, then perhaps we should keep the ban for that reason. Next thing we know there will be police stand offs with 9 year olds in a tree fort because the police can't tell the difference between a water gun and weapon. Old ladies handing out candy on Halloween will open the door and great trick or treaters dressed as cops, cow bows, etc with a shell's worth of buckshot because their toy gun looked so real with its orange plactic tip, and shiny plastic parts, that she thought they were going to rob her.


4. The current political climate makes it unwise for the BSA to allow the activity. Fears of protests by political action groups, unfavorable media coverage, or alienation of a segment of the population, could be reason for banning the activity. I don't think we really wan't to go down the road of basing national policy on fears of repercussions in Berkley, or other such political problems. If the culture of an area, or its laws, makes doing these thing unwise, then it shouldn't be done there, or by units based there. Many people favor kids not ever being exposed to firearms, or even bans on firearms, yet BSA doesn't cave (for good reason) to such pressure.


5. BSA believes that all games that result in what could be considered to be "dying" are not appropriate. There is perhaps an argument to be made here. Being eliminated from a game and not allowed to play anymore is probably not a positive thing. Though that could lead to banning any type of game where someone is eliminated from the competion. I don't think we want to do that. If we are worried about the possible connecions between different outcomes in games, elimation=death, temporary elimination=injury, capture=POW, then I think we would eliminate many games for no good reason. Perhaps the mental health community may have information that would be useful in this regard.


I think that BSA, based on either unfounded, and ill informed, safety considerations, OR political correctness, banned paintball and laser tag.


I think BSA should reexamine its decision. If there are real safety concerns, then it should publish in some appropriate form the reasons for those concerns and clarify the rule so that it doesn't appear as though BSA thinks a laser pointer used in a lecture hall and a .30-06 are just as dangerous. If there is nothing but political concerns at the base of this decision, then the rule should not appear in the Guide to Safe Scouting, and it must not be allowed to remain there. If they wish a non-safety rule to remain in affect, publish it somewhere else.





Is it possible that the entire rule has been misunderstood by everyone?


Look at the language again.


Unauthorized and Restricted Activities


The following activities have been declared unauthorized and restricted by the Boy Scouts of America:


Pointing any type of firearm (including paintball, dye, or lasers) at any individual is unacceptable. However, law enforcement departments and agencies using firearms in standard officer/agent training may use their training agenda when accompanied with appropriate safety equipment in the Law Enforcement Venturing program."


Notice it says any "firearm". It does not say devices that shoot the types of material in question. If laser tag equipment, wich is not a firearm, but rather fancy recreational equipment (a toy, is banned by being a device that shoots a laser, then it also MUST cover laser pointers frequently used during presentations and training events. If painball markers, a device that is not a firearm, but despenses paint, is banned, then you could argue that a tool that is used to spray paint or dye is also banned.


Is it possible that the word "firearm" is actually the key word? Perhaps the rule was intended to prevent the use of firearms using non-lethal ammunition, such as simunition (a type of ammuniton fired from a gun that instead of using a bullet as a projectile, uses a paintball), or using modifications such as a laser for non-firing pratice, from being pointed at people. It is possible the intent of the rule was never to ban painball games or laser tag games, but rather to prevent a firearm, any firearm (even if it was just loaded with simunition, or wasn't loaded but had a laser aiming device attached), from being pointed at someone.


On having considered this possibility, I believe that it is quite likely that this rule was only intended to be used to prevent firearms (or devices so near in appearence and contruction to be nearly impossible to distinguish from firearms) from being pointed at people. Otherwise the rule should have been written VERY differently. So I believe that there is nothing wrong with the letter of the law, but rather how it has been interpretted by so many.


I feel certain I could find a lawer that would agree that this doesn't really ban those activities. I also feel cetain many ordinary people with the definition of a firearm in hand would come to the conclusion that painball markers, laser tag systems, and laser pointers, are not, in fact, covered by this rule.


I don't know why I didn't really bother to read the rule and come to my own conclusion when I first read this thread. However, I did just accept that the rule banned those things. I now believe I made a serious error in judgement by not critically analysing the actual text of the rule. I feel that the rule needs to be cleary rewritten so as to include all projectile weapons (such as slings, sling shots, bows, crossbows, a cannon, etc from being pointed at people).


I would suggest the following language would make this all far clearer:

"Pointing any type of projectile weapon, i.e. firearms (including those firing paint, dye, or lasers), BB guns, bows, or slings, at any individual is unnaceptable. However, law enforcement departments and agencies using firearms in standard officer/agent training may use their training agenda when accompanied with appropriate safety equipment in the Law Enforcement Venturing program."



In this example I am using the following two definitions just to make certain everything is clear and we don't start thinking a laser pointer in a classroom is some kind of weapon or firearm.



from the Merrian-Webster Dictionary:



Pronunciation: 'fIr-"rm

Function: noun

Date: 1646

: a weapon from which a shot is discharged by gunpowder -- usually used of small arms


from the American Heritage Dictionary:






NOUN: A weapon, especially a pistol or rifle, capable of firing a projectile and using an explosive charge as a propellant.



from the Merrian-Webster Dictionary:


Main Entry: 1weapon

Pronunciation: 'we-p&n

Function: noun

Etymology: Middle English wepen, from Old English w[AE]pen; akin to Old High German wAffan weapon, Old Norse vApn

Date: before 12th century

1 : something (as a club, knife, or gun) used to injure, defeat, or destroy

2 : a means of contending against another


from the American Heritage dictionary:






NOUN: 1. An instrument of attack or defense in combat, as a gun, missile, or sword. 2. Zoology A part or organ, such as a claw or stinger, used by an animal in attack or defense. 3. A means used to defend against or defeat another: Logic was her weapon.

TRANSITIVE VERB: Inflected forms: weaponed, weaponing, weapons

To supply with weapons or a weapon; arm.

ETYMOLOGY: Middle English wepen, from Old English wpen.




Also, some form of rule should be inserted about the use of accepted safety equipment and procedures during any painball or laser tag game. I am certain there is some kind of commonly accepted rules found in some law or publication about these things. The BSA should take those and require their use for these activities. Something along the lines of:

"Before engaging in any paintball or laser tag activity, it must be insured that proper safety procedures and safety equipment are in place to prevent injury to any participants or observers. All participants and their guardians should be fully informed of the activity and must provide consent before participating in any way."


BSA could also create a standard paintball marker safety rules, similar to those for firearms. BSA could also require that a safety briefing be conducted before all such events. That safety briefing should include all safety related rules and procedures for the activity, and the proper use of safety equipment. The opportunity could also be used to explain that weapons (firearms) must be handled in a different manner than paintball equipment, and reinforce the BSA firearms safety rules.




I have made several revisions to the message as of 12:22 A.M. Eastern, Nov 3.


(This message has been edited by Proud Eagle)(This message has been edited by Proud Eagle)

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I believe most of your replies fit in the order of a line being drawn in order to segregate aggressive combative activities(un scoutly) to non agressive (scoutly). I find this drawing of lines between what should be defined as good or ungood for the individual left up to that of the individual and parents. To play the devils advocate, we should disallow board games such as chess and risk which demonstrate combative tactical situations. Dodgeball of course should be out of the question. Order of the arrow should be restricted in their dance re enactments as to not provide any combative feelings. And although I will disagree on your decisions to draw lines as you see fit for other individuals I still believe that paintball/rifling and shotgunning in the boyscouts is a bad idea. That pains me to say but I believe the best place for a child to learn that is at home under the careful one on one oversight of a parent. Not that the overwhelming majority of scouts and leaders are not responsible enough to undertake the activity, but the one who isn't is never the one injured. That fragment of a percentile is simply not worth risking. As a parent, not for my children anyway.

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Nice try Mr. proudeagle, but I still believe that killing other people is wrong, and that any game or activity that centers around the simulated killing of other people is wrong. Making that activity fun or safe doesnt eliminate the basic premise of inflicting death as entertainment. You can cut-and-paste out of the dictionary until the cows come home, but killing people is still wrong.

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I am not trying to suggest that killing people is a good thing. In fact I would agree completely that murder is a terrible wrong. So, we at least agree on part of the issue.


I would also suggest that no Scout should participate in an activity such as laser tag or paintball unless both they and their parents are comfortable with them doing so. I do think that if a boy run troop decides it wants to engage in one of those activities, and the adult leadership is willing to support their decision, then it should be an option. Many parents object to shotgun, rifle, and archery activities. Others object to fishing. At what point should we draw the line between acceptable activities and unacceptable activities when there is considerable differences of opinion based on cultural, political, religious, and regional differences? I am inclined to think offering flexibility to the charter organization and their units makes sense when there is no demonstrable safety risk.


I must also ask what constitues being entertained by simulated death? Do films that contain death constitute being entertained by death? What about computer or video games that involve death? Should a Scoutmaster check all of the gameboy games his Scouts are using during a long road trip to ensure that none of them are engaged in simulated killing? Perhaps chess and risk should banned because they do at some level simulate combat. How many layers have to seperate the real thing from the simulated to make it acceptable?


Here is another angle. Painball most closely simulates organized combat, such as that between units of soldiers. Now some do object to the use of lethal force even under the most justified circumstances and even with the greatest restraints to keep things within the rules of war. However, most people would say there is a considerable difference between say a just war and murder.


The point I am trying to make is that banning anything that could be considered simulated killing, or other simulated immoral/unethical behavior, is a slippery slope that could easily lead to banning what are quite widely accepted activities.


Perhaps the similarities between paintball and actual combat could warrant it being banned. That I could settle for, though not enthusiastically. However, banning laser tag does not make sense. Laser tag has very little similarity to real combat as far as I can tell. Often laser tag doesn't even involve the individuals who are hit being eliminated from the game. It is because of those quite obvious differences that I would think that laser tag would be an acceptable activity, especially if the charter org, the Scouts, the adult leaders, and the parents all approved.


At some point we have to trust that the individuals in the units will be able to make appropriate decisions about such things when safety does not seem to actually be a concern.


Certainly it would seem nuts to suggest that a troop based in Berkley, or one where half its members are quaker, should be playing paintball, because that would probably not be acceptable to the families involved in that unit.


On the other hand, suggesting that similuted killing is wrong to a troop based on a military base where half the parents of the scouts jobs involve killing the enemies of this country, would also be nuts.

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Luckily for us we don't have to draw any lines. We dont have to figure out and weigh differences of opinion. Our national organization has done that for us. It has been made crystal clear for us unit leaders that paintball and laser tag are not acceptable Scout activities. BSA has not banned anything that could be considered simulated killing. BSA banned paintball and laser tag.


There is plenty of flexibility for the unit or chartered organization to avoid simulated killing games or chess or whatever gameboy games you might find offensive. I'm sure BSA would have no problem at all if some unit wants to ban chess or fishing in the unit. Any parent that objects to archery or fishing or any other acceptable Scouting activity is certainly not obligated to allow their kid to participate. Any unit that wants to agonize over chess can go ahead and agonize. Its not a problem.


But BSA will absolutely have a problem if some unit decides to do paintball as a unit activity. BSA will never give the boy-led troop the option of ignoring the Guide to Safe Scouting, even if all the adult leaders and parents and chartered org agree. Its not an option. If you want to do paintball and laser tag, there's no reason why you should not go right ahead and do so; just do it outside the realm of Scouting.


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I find your last post to be highly frustrating. It appears you decided to hide behind national policy to avoid answering questions about your own positions and beliefs. Perhpas I have misjudged your intent, but that certainly seems to be what you have done.


In your previous post you argue your position about what you think is right and wrong. I then ask some questions of your position and present some challenges, and your reply seems to amount to a, "my opinion doesn't matter, only national policy does". If that is your assertion then I must wonder why you stated your own personal beliefs in the first place.


You are right that BSA has not banned all simulated killing. However, you made a statement that would favor that being the policy.

"any game or activity that centers around the simulated killing of other people is wrong"

If that is truelly what you believe, it seems to me you would be morally obligated to promote the banning of simulated killing. In fact, if that is your position, then you would have to believe that all simulated killing is banned in fact, if not by name, by the "morally straight" clause in the Scout Oath. Otherwise your belief that it is wrong is rather hollow at best, or so it seems to me.


I do not think we should go around ignoring national policy. I am not even asking for BSA to allow units to ignore the GTSS. Instead, I am suggesting that the current interpretation of the GTSS does not fit the language of the rule, and that the rule itself is not well worded. I am not suggesting BSA tell the units "ignore GTSS if you want to" I am suggesting BSA change the GTSS. I really can't determine where you got the idea that I suggested the GTSS should be made into some kind of optional thing.


Also, your assertion that we do not have to make decisions because BSA does it for us is absurd. We have to make decisions all the time. We have to determine what policy means. We have to determine what to do when policy isn't clear. We have to determine what to do when there is no policy on something. (By "we", I mean collectively all those involved in Scouting in the field, those carrying out and participating in the program.)(This message has been edited by Proud Eagle)

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LaserTag is a game of tag. No one dies or gets injured, even in a simulated way. Before I played it, I thought it looked an awful lot like destimulating kids against violence. The equipment you wear DOES feel a lot like weaponry, which is a negative in my mind, but it plays just like a game of tag

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With the resurrection of this thread on laser tag and paintball, I share what our unit does...


Our CO is a Church with a large youth group ministry. They schedule laser tag and paintball events that appeal to boys, as well as a number of other activities that do and do not conflict with our troop program. We have always allowed the church youth ministry to 'publicize' its events through fliers available at troop meetings (they are always clearly marked as A XXX Church Youth Ministry Event - Not a Troop XXX Event and are left out on a table marked as such for anyone that wants one). Technically, the scouting program falls under the auspices of the church's youth minister, although he may not know that fact. About half of our scouts are members of the Church and are active in the youth group and already know about the upcoming event. The other half are not Church members, but youth ministry events are open to all youth not just Church members. As a result, a number of scouts could decide on their own to participate in the youth ministry's laser tag/paintball event. That would not be under the auspices of scouting or the troop, but rather the church. We do not feel culpable since the youth ministry events are never promoted in anyway by the troop and we do not censor or approve of the fliers that the youth minister places on the table. When a scout brings up laser tag or paintball as an activity, we always tell them that they are free to do so through the church's youth group.

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good clear effective way to handle subject...

We used to do a paintball day...long ago...but as we wised up to the BSA way it had to go...now our older boys plan and organize it themselves, outside of scouts...sort of like scouting...they learned they can do it themselves...and they can.

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