The Boy Scouts of America, a paramilitary children’s organization inspired in part by the exploits of the young Mafeking Cadet Corps during the Second Boer War, has forbidden its present-day members to shoot squirt guns at one another. A blog post for adult Scout leaders on the Scouting Magazine website reports that under the rules in the 2015 Boy Scouts of America National Shooting Sports Manual, “Water guns and rubber band guns must only be used to shoot at targets, and eye protection must be worn.”

Wearing safety goggles to shoot squirt guns on a firing range might sound a bit restrictive, but the Scouts’ other options are even more limited. The manual goes on to offer a very long list of prohibited items, including boomerangs, spear guns, crossbows, ninja throwing stars, and bottle rockets.

Scouts are also barred from using “[m]arshmallow shooters that require placing a straw or similar device in the mouth.” Paintball and laser tag are only allowed if the guns are used to shoot at targets, rather than at one’s fellow Scouts or other human beings.

The Scouting blog elaborates:

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?”

Thirty-some years ago, my own Boy Scout troop meetings were punctuated by games of Midnight Football, a sort of combat rugby played in blackout conditions on a hard tile floor. Experiments in pyromania and the use of walking sticks as swords were also widespread.

Scouts today are, however, still allowed to throw knives and tomahawks at targets. Meanwhile, to make sure today’s youth won’t caught unprepared for the 21st century battlespace, the Boy Scouts of America have over the past four years created new merit badges in robotics, programming, and game design.

Illustration by Jim Cooke. Contact the author at