Fact Check

The Boy Scouts Have Banned Water Gun Fights

Rumor: The Boy Scouts have banned water gun fights.

Published May 25, 2015

Claim:   The Boy Scouts of America have banned water gun fights.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, May 2015]

The Boy Scouts of America have banned the use of water guns as part of its overall campaign against guns. True or not?


Origins:   On 6 May 2015, Bryan Wendell published an article in Scouting Magazine reporting that the Boy Scouts had banned water gun fights:

As summer — and pool weather! — lingers on the horizon, it's a good time to remind you that BSA policies prohibit pointing simulated firearms at people.

Yes, that includes water guns.

While the above-quoted article is factual, it left many readers with misconceptions about the Boy Scouts' policy on water guns.

First, as the 2015 Boy Scouts of America National Shooting Sports Manual points out, water guns can be used to shoot non-human targets. The Boy Scouts do not, however, allow scouts to point water guns at other scouts:

"Water guns and rubber band guns must only be used to shoot at targets, and eye protection must be worn."

Second, director of communications Deron Smith confirmed that this is not a new regulation:

We have a long-standing guideline to scouting safety. The blog post referencing the water guns is specifically targeted to our adults responsible for taking the kids out. It's just a reminder of the policies that were already in place in the guide to safe scouting. This has gotten a bit of reaction and has been taken to be a new approach, but this is not new.

Lastly, the Boy Scouts have not banned all forms of water fight. While the organization does not allow its members to use water guns on each other, scouts can still employ "weapons" such as balloons in water fights:

"For water balloons, use small, biodegradable balloons, and fill them no larger than a ping pong ball."

The Boy Scouts' Guide to Safe Scouting states that "pointing any type of firearm or simulated firearm at any individual is unauthorized":

Pointing any type of firearm or simulated firearm at any individual is
unauthorized. Scout units may plan or participate in paintball, laser tag
or similar events where participants shoot at targets that are neither living
nor human representations. Units with council approval may participate in
formally organized historical reenactment events, where firearms are used
and intentionally aimed over the heads of the reenactment participants.
The use of paintball guns, laser guns or similar devices may be utilized in
target shooting events with council approval and following the Sweet 16 of
BSA Safety.

Brian Wendell offered this explanation for the Boy Scouts policy on water guns:

"A Scout is kind. What part of pointing a firearm [simulated or otherwise] at someone is kind?"

Last updated:   25 May 2015


    Stump, Scot.   "Boy Scouts of America: Our Ban on Water Gun Fights Is Nothing New."

    Today.   20 May 2015.

    Wendell, Bryan.   "Water Guns OK for Target Shooting, Not for Firing at Other Scouts."

    Scouting Magazine.   6 May 2015.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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