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RF’s recent Question of the Day on the Boy Scouts and Gun Prohibition got me thinking about the whole question of firearms in our society. On the one hand, why should an organization with a decidedly outdoor/camping/wilderness/survival focus prohibit the carrying of firearms by troop leaders?  The answer to this question goes beyond some of the motives and other thoughts attributed to the BSA by a few of the comments to that post and instead provides a window into how American society and the society in many other countries actually operates.

The condition color code was conceived by Jeff Cooper decades ago. He opined that much of society perpetually spends their time in Condition White – essentially oblivious to the potential for threat. Some folks (particularly those who have martial arts, firearms, and/or other weapons background) are more likely to operate in Condition Yellow – essentially relaxed, but always mindful of the possibility of a threat materializing. Interestingly, as children, we are often taught to operate in Condition Yellow, always on the lookout for potential threats such as cars coming while crossing the street and being wary of strangers in vans and offers of candy, etc. But as we age, it seems that this conditioning seems to fade as complacency sets in.

In actuality, I would suggest that most people are constantly subconsciously performing periodic risk assessments, but that their definition of risk is generally flawed or incomplete. Sure, when using an ATM at night or walking though a deserted parking lot to find your car, etc., most (but not all) people do move into a heightened alert state. The problem is that while they may correctly gauge the potential for risk in the scenarios above, they incorrectly gauge the potential for risk in other seemingly less threatening everyday situations.

The person who is hyper vigilant while walking on a deserted street late at night is blissfully ignorant of the risk that something bad might happen while they are in a restaurant. While some folks on this blog have talked about how they always like to have a seat with their back to the wall and conduct a brief assessment of potential exit strategies should something happen, they’re in the distinct minority.

Here is a simple test: the next time you are out with friends, bring up the question of safety when they go to a hotel. How many of them take a few moments to scout out the emergency exits? How about how many have clothes and necessary items near their bed should a fire alarm sound in the middle of the night and they need to grab essentials and get out quickly?

When you are on a plane, look around during the safety briefing. How many people are really paying attention? How many actually pull out the safety card and study it? In the event of an emergency, how many would know how to get to the closest two exits? How many could successfully convert their seat cushion into a floatation device? How many really understand they need to give that oxygen mask a good tug to start the flow? Not many would be my guess.

One hundred years ago when many of our ancestors lived in frontier societies, there was no question of carrying firearms and other items when you left the house. There were bad people and dangerous animals about and only a fool would leave their cabin without a means to protect themselves.

Fast forward to today and most people simply don’t believe that there are any credible, immediate threats when they leave their houses. Sure, every so often we read about something bad happening to someone, but we’re great at rationalizing things and convincing ourselves that those bad things simply can’t happen to us. Until they do.

It is this abrogation of personal responsibility for one’s safety that has gotten us to where we are today. As a society, we don’t feel that it is up to us to protect ourselves. An offshoot of this way of thinking is how we are never at fault when something happens to us – we are all victims, but that’s a topic for another day.

We pay taxes to have people like police and fire fighters whose job it is to protect us, so why should we need to do it ourselves? Question: how many of your friends have fire extinguishers within easy reach in their homes? How many have fully-stocked first aid kits in their homes, cars, and places of business?  How many have a reserve supply of food and water for even a few days should there be a disruption or disaster such as hurricane/blizzard/ice storm/earthquake, etc?

The simple fact is most of our fellow sheep citizens simply don’t believe that something really bad could happen to them and as such, they make no effort to prepare for it.  Furthermore, preparing makes us face the reality that there is a possibility that something bad actually could happen and we don’t like to think that way. So we avoid it.

I’m one of those people who never had a problem with firearms, but until last year I simply didn’t own any. Neither did my parents until Hurricane Rita was headed towards Houston a few years ago. And in the aftermath of Katrina, my father decided that it would be a good idea to have a couple of guns in the house just in case someone decided to try to take advantage of the situation. In fact, the catalyst for me getting my first gun was a visit to see him last year in which, at 82 years of age, he decided he wanted an automatic pistol to complement the revolver and shotgun he already owned. I figured if he could get one, then dammit, so could I.

My wife was not thrilled with the idea. We have two young children and the idea of guns in the house was not something she was comfortable with. We’ve reached an accommodation, but it necessitates my guns being locked up. I can pretty much forget about home carry as the kids don’t even know the guns exist.  At 6 and 5, keeping things under their radar is pretty easy, but that will change as they get older.

I do have a pistol in a safe in my bedroom, but my wife simply prefers not to think about it and it’s not a subject for discussion. Before I get the inevitable questions and helpful suggestions, let me say that my wife has shot guns before. She just didn’t like it. Also, anyone who is married will tell you that simply trying to put my foot down on a matter such as this – something she feels so strongly about – is an invitation for trouble of the lawyer/divorce/custody hearing kind. Not someplace I want to go. So I have to live with the compromise and bide my time in hopes that she gets more comfortable with the whole thing.

She’s also the sort of person who looked at me a little funny as I started to stockpile a modest supply of food and water for us should there be a problem. She was bemused when I purchased a couple of fully stocked disaster “go bags” to keep in the cars just in case. I’m far from a full-fledged “prepper”, but my neck of the woods is subject to power outages due to weather, so having a week’s worth of supplies doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

She also didn’t initially see the need for a generator until the first winter that took out electricity for a few days which killed the pump for our well and deprived us of water. Never mind heat and light. Now she thinks it’s a good idea. Unfortunately, she is like many others who only learn the value of preparation after something happens. A power failure is pretty innocuous – inconvenient, yes, but not usually a life changing event. Other things could happen that might fall into that latter category and it seems  that it would be foolish to wait for them to happen before learning the value of being prepared.

This, of course brings, me back to my opening reference to the BSA. The fact is that many of our fellow citizens calculate the risk of armed Scout leaders to be greater than the risk of an unarmed troop of kids running into a situation where a gun would be a good thing.  Prior to 9/11, many people would have resisted the idea of armed pilots, but following that tragedy, the idea gained a lot more support in the flying public.

The fact is that strongly pro-gun people are still outnumbered by the anti-gunners and the vast population of the ambivalent. As long as that remains the case, we’ll continue to see things such as gun free zones and gun prohibitions in segments of society such as the Boy Scouts of America. In the end, the BSA has to cater to the larger group (and their insurers) and quite simply there are more people who would be strongly opposed to the BSA permitting troop leaders to carry guns than there are those who would avoid the BSA because of the gun prohibition.

Unfortunately, as long as the majority of society continues to operate in Condition White, things aren’t likely to change.

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  1. Before the inevitable deluge of anti-marriage or “Forget your wife! Gun up!” comments start rolling in, let me just say this husband and father supports you in your struggle for balance. Your soft evangelism is already winning the day. Would the missus have even thought about the generator if you were not already prepping?

    • I’m in the exact same place with my wife. Food storage is ok because her parents do it, a generator will be fine when we can afford one, but more guns? Not for a while. It is good to note, however, that when we were married I owned a single-shot bolt action .22 rifle and a .22 revolver. The topic of CCW was something I only brought up if I didn’t feel like getting any that night. Then she consented to letting me get a cheap 9mm hi-point for home protection. Then I stepped up to a Ruger SR9-c for better reliability and eventual concealment. Now I carry every day and home carry doesn’t even raise her eyebrows. Slow and steady wins the race.

  2. From personal experience, one of the major factors in the BSA’s decision to prohibit firearms on outings and at meetings…. MOMS.

    • Chas, you hit it on head…….one of my scoutmaster sayings: “the greatest obstacle for a boy to reach manhood is………….his mother!” didn’t get many moms agreeing but almost all the dads said amen………

  3. Just to put it out there first. I am a gun supporter. But as for the BSA I am a leader and if some of you have been leaders may relate to this. You are out there with 20 plus kids that range from ages 11 to 18. All I have to say is “Curiosity killed the Cat”. Some of those kids have grown up in a very bad situation and when you introduce a gun in that mix it would not be good. Yes you can say you will hide it but that does not say that they will not find it. Just my two cents. Thanks

    • RF will tell you that a gun should be either strapped to your person or in a safe.

      If that’s not possible while scouting (I wouldn’t know), then the gun should stay home. If it is, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

    • David, having the undivided attention of 20 plus future leaders is the perfect time to teach them the 4 rules. in every troop i have been associated with, the boys earned every merit badge to do with shooting & they became knowledgeable of the responsibility of leadership, especially to do with guns. a significant number of boys in my troops came from bad situations, urban areas tend to produce those situations, Scouting gives guys like you the opportunity to help them develop their leadership skills in ALL areas. embrace it & run with it.

      • ^^^ aaaand BOOM! This. Not saying YOU have to be the leader on Gun issues…but boys should grow up and learn about them. Currently struggling with the same ‘wife’ issues as the author.

    • A modern handgun in a proper holster poses absolutely no danger to anyone. It will never, ever go BANG … no matter what. If the scout leader wants to leave the gun unattended (say to shower), then take the ammo in a ziplock plastic bag to the shower or install a trigger lock and take the key to the shower. And happily the almost negligible bulk and weight of a trigger lock are of no consequence when hiking.

  4. Do agree with you old and scary. BUT not every kid will be training in those 4 rules and we do teach the kids those rules. But in a controlled environment and not in the back country. As for Robert if you wish to pack a micro-safe be my guest. I don’t like to carry more than I really need. But that would work.

  5. I don’t support the BSA because locally they allowed a church to bully out the best scoutmaster they’ve had for years. I’ll just have to spend time with my kids myself.

  6. I’ve not been on a campout since getting my CPL, but I do carry every time I take my son to a troop meeting – where I usually do work or hang out in the back of the room. My son’s scout master is a local police officer. While it is unlikely anyone else at the meetings has noticed I’m carrying, I doubt the scout master has missed it.

    My state requires two personal references for your CPL application – both of mine are guys that are also involved with the troop. So far no one’s said anything.

    I don’t know what I will do when the opportunity comes up to go on a campout.

  7. Errr!

    A part of me has been roaring inside! Since I have been reading reading TTAG and others, pro and con I find myself deaply frustrated.

    I grew up in Montana with guns everywhere(in homes, trucks, cars, bars. taverns, outhouses, school, stores: everywhere). Hunting and shooting were a part everyday life. Once and a while some one would die of non-natural causes: usually a work related accident(logging/minning/driving), quite a few drunk driving accidents, killed by human hands-knives, hammers, axes and fists mostly. Relatively few were from guns, as it usually took to long to get to a gun and other “arms” were easily at the ready.

    By the time I was old enough to consider joining the Boy Scouts, I already had more experience in their activities than they. About 1/2 the Scouts were like myself and the other half knew little and were scared of their own shadow. Guns, Bows with arrows and knives and fire: everything seemed to fall to the ‘fear’ rather than any ‘reality’.

    When I joined the Army I found about 90% of the “volunteers” to be fearful(but excited) about guns and other “weapons”(as the drill seargants and Army culture like to stress). Lots of yelling and screaming and running around and quick training with “weapons”(stagnant targets and super-safe safety), but always fear of guns. No one around carried one. There were a few who would carry concealed handguns, but would never say so. My earlier world/life experience was nowhere.

    When I became an 18D with SF and, later, other “units”, “weapons” were less feared and more matter of fact, with realistic training and handling. (Even having your primary focus on killing humans with “weapons” and being the subjects of being killed by “weapons”.)But still not apart of you and your life as I had experienced when I grew up. And operators still CCW’d. quietly.

    I, personally, still have difficulty relating to any way other than the way I grew up. Guns are a part of life(knives and bows, as well for that matter). They help feed you, protect you and teach you responsibility for your actions. They teach you responsibility for their maintenance and perfomance and continued service to you and others. They teach you the value of life and what life can do for you.

    Today the way I grew up seems so far away(even though I still “live with guns” the way I did then). Even TTAG is far from there….

    I am just at a loss

  8. “We pay taxes to have people like police and fire fighters…”

    The fruits of our labor are stolen and then distributed to police and fire fighters whether we want their “service” or not…

    FIXED. As for the rest, agreed.

  9. I believe the author Jim Barrett is right on the money with this post.

    That said, boy scouts will become poor citizens and poor leaders if they have a false understanding of the world. People need to understand that bad things happen in the world. And they need to understand how to prevent those bad events as much as possible and how to best deal with them if they happen anyway.

    Boy scouts learn to prevent getting lost in the wilderness … and what to do should they find themselves lost in the wilderness anyway. The odd thing is that people are victims of violent crime way, way, way more often than they are lost in some wilderness setting — especially when we are talking about boy scouts in urban areas. Yet they avoiding the topic of violent attacks and actively prohibit leaders from having the tools to effectively defend themselves from attack. This is a disservice.

    Most people have a wildly exaggerated perception of the danger of firearms in the hands of citizens. Let’s start with raw data available from the Center’s for Disease Control. Only 600 people died as a result of accidental gunshot wounds in the latest year for with data was available (2009 I believe). That number is exceedingly low. Compare that with the 1.2 million violent crimes that law enforcement agencies reported to the FBI last year. The result: the risk of violent crime exceeds the risk of accidental death from a firearm by at least a factor of 2000!!! (I say “at least” because most people believe there are substantially more violent crimes than the number reported to the FBI.)

    Now let’s up the ante. If a handgun owner keeps their modern handgun in a properly fitting holster (which covers the trigger) and they keep that handgun in its holster on their hip at all times, it will never, ever, under any circumstances, cause an accidental injury or death. And for people worried about showering or sleeping, they can take the pistol — still in its holster — and lock it in a small bedside safe. If a person can commit to this protocol — and it is very easy to do — there is absolutely no rational reason to not be armed.

    • For rational reasons, see the MOMS post above–I love my mother, but “rational” is not usually a word that can be used to describe mothers in general when it comes to perceived threats to their children’s safety.

      Still, of course, your post is right on the money. Odd that an organization that drills home the motto of “Be Prepared” should be selective on what to prepare for.

  10. I suspect that the reason the BSA does not allow scoutmasters to carry is liabilty and not a condition white mentality. The boy scouts are the original prepers.

  11. My father is the scoutmaster of a local BSA troop. He always has a gun (glock 22) in his truck on campouts but he knows that the boys know its there. He takes the opportunity every so often to show the whole troop the gun and teach them gun safety rules. He’s “gun proofing the kids” not the other way around. He even lets them shooting when they’re camping on private property and they have a safe place to shoot. The troop knows its there but they know it’s off limits. Not to say he doesn’t keep an eye on it or keep his truck locked.

    • Kudos to your father for what he is teaching his scouts. They are a very lucky group. Your father is also pretty lucky that everyone seems to have no issues with his firearm. I’m not sure what part of the country he lives in, but I would speculate it is not on one of the liberal coasts. All it would take would be one scout who tells his anti-gun parents about your father’s gun and you’d have a genuine Helen Lovejoy “Think of the Children” moment and he’d be drummed out of the service pretty quickly by the gun shy BSA management.

  12. “It is this abrogation of personal responsibility for one’s safety that has gotten us to where we are today. As a society, we don’t feel that it is up to us to protect ourselves. ” The truth of this statement is illustrated by the following remark from your essay:

    “I do have a pistol in a safe in my bedroom, but my wife simply prefers not to think about it and it’s not a subject for discussion.” If you don’t think about bad things, they won’t happen, right? Jeff Cooper was right: “… much of society perpetually spends their time in Condition White – essentially oblivious to the potential for threat.” And denial is a river in Egypt.

  13. Parents will always choose to be frightened by the wrong things. They taught their children about “stranger danger” while their next door neighbor or parrish priest was abusing their children. They fought to keep licensed guns out of schools, so now only the criminals have them. They were so frightened about their children being left behind by brighter ones that the whole education system was dumbed down, which made their children even more ignorant and less employable.

    I’m not surprised that the BSA would kowtow to a coterie of parents. Without parental support, there would be no BSA. I’m am surprised, however, that so many parents can continue to be so easily duped.

    • Ralph – you are honestly surprised by how many parents are easily duped? I refer you to exhibits A-Z – ie: the last 26 National Elections (and possibly even further than that). People are duped all the time into voting for selfish, self-serving, and ignorant politicians. We do it over and over again. Even those of us who own a clue are often frustrated as the choices offered to us by the major parties are not particularly appealing. My mom probably said it best when she told me that she and my dad would hold their noses and vote for Romney.

      As long as people continue be duped by the politicians despite the evidence we get every year of their gross incompetence, its not hard to understand why they are duped in other areas as well.

  14. I do agree with this article. Yes I am dealing with the same issues at home as well.
    I am dismayed that the BSA doesn’t to more marksmanship activities, and from the FUD perspective yes I understand.
    Here is CA, most BSA troops don’t go into deep back country, they are usually in BSA camps or some sort of recreational facility.
    For the rest of the country, what happens if you run into a mountain lion that decides not to back down, or a bear who decides scouts are a tasty treat, you know those ones that decide to stalk you, or some wild bore?
    I am not saying be armed to the gills, but dang a rifle or single hand gun might stop a serous tragedy. Of course moms will ask this question only when it does happen and a number of boys loose their lives. It is sad..

  15. Some folks (particularly those who have martial arts, firearms, and/or other weapons background) are more likely to operate in Condition Yellow – essentially relaxed, but always mindful of the possibility of a threat materializing.
    Actually, I have discussed this with my youngest Daughter who has a 3rd degree Black Belt in Tae Kwan Do; and her being in Condition Yellow is true.

  16. If taking responsibility were a part of our culture then the entire ideal of a pyramid beuracracy wouldn’t exist. No one wants to actually believe there is a reason for vigilance; that implies that the average person would better serve themselves being vigilant instead of relying on others to be such for them.

    Local police forces and security systems do what looking out of your window once an hour can do for your home. But instead of turn our heads from our entertainment we entrust our lives to others. Why not? Others do it and we pay for it as a society. Both as incompetent and easily panicked groups and by rising taxes that fund a growing government beast that basically exists to babysit this country.

    People see Condition: White as a privilege; why else would we work so hard to justify and attain it?

  17. Also, anyone who is married will tell you that simply trying to put my foot down on a matter such as this – something she feels so strongly about – is an invitation for trouble of the lawyer/divorce/custody hearing kind. Not someplace I want to go. So I have to live with the compromise and bide my time in hopes that she gets more comfortable with the whole thing.

    I’m sorry Jim, but I don’t understand why people insist on marrying someone that they’re not fully compatible with. It’s also a sad sign of our times that your wife refuses to compromise at all and you’re expected to just cower in the corner – and yet YOU’RE the “bad guy”. This is also a wonderful example of why everyone should have a pre-nup saying that if you get divorced, you get whatever you had going in and any additional money is split based on who earned what percentage – so if you earn 75% of your yearly combined income and she earns 25%, she gets 25% of your savings / stock / value of the home / etc if you divorce.

    My girlfriend fully supports owning guns as well as all of my other hobbies and she’s equally in favor of the pre-nup conditions I stated. Contrary to popular misconception, you can be a man in the US and be happy – you don’t always have to be bent over the table being brutally sodomized by your “loving” wife (figuratively speaking).

  18. I am an Eagle Scout myself, and I Open Carry a pistol everyday everywhere I am legally able to. While National BSA rules state that firearms should not be carried (they actually specifically ban pistols entirely, even 22lr or bb/pellet) What people need to realize is that not every troop follows every National guideline. Someone mentioned above that they hate the BSA now because they ousted a good leader from a church. I have no other facts other than what you posted, but I am willing to bet that it was that single troop that did that, not necessarily a concerted effort by National or the BSA as a whole. It’s not like the NRA where it’s a centrally controlled organization where all decisions come from the top down. The BSA is locally organized and run by the people of your community, National has little to do with how a troop is run. Think of it like the League of Nations or it’s bastard child the United Nations, while it claims to be the last word on events no one really pays attention to it.

    With all that being said, my troop wasn’t even officially part of the National BSA during my time with them. We didn’t care, we went on doing things OUR way since it was OUR troop. Boy Scouts is a locally organized and run group, national has little to say about how WE did things. We got kicked out from the National organization part years before I joined up for something I never quite learned. I did learn however that we did things differently than nearly every other troop out there. And we were not shameful or apologetic about it in the least.

    First, while the shooting merit badges were not “required” to get Eagle, we as a troop made sure to plan at least two campouts a year specifically and only for those badges. You bet your arses we made sure they learned the safety rules! We also had some pistols along for the ride sometimes, 22lr and gas/spring operated bb/pellet ones. Only the older boys would be allowed to use them, under supervision as always of course, but we were not shielded from them as though just their existence was somehow evil. I also remember one campout where an adult open carried a 1911, though he was not a leader.

    My son will be old enough to join the scouts in a few years, and you bet your ass I will be carrying. The rules be damned, I will NOT put myself in a situation where I am defenseless and put my kid in harms way. To me, THAT is child endangerment at it’s heart… knowing you had the means to protect him but willingly giving up that ability.

    (funny how this blog post got spun right back to BSA from just one or two sentences mentioning it)

    • “The BSA is locally organized and run by the people of your community..”

      Correction: BSA Councils give the illusion of local control. All Scout Executive candidates, are provided from the professional ranks by BSA National Headquarters. Your local Council Scout Executive owes his career loyalty to BSA National.

  19. The liberal media has most common citizens confused and brainwashed. They always talk of the bad reasons for gun ownership. If the media would make known to the people all the times a gun saved a life, (yes I said when a gun saved a life) more MOM’s would accept the idea of their little darling learning about the use, saftey, and management of firearms within the Boy Scouts and other national kids organizations. The 4H clubs have shooting competions for boys and girls.

    Just as Qajaqon had said above: “I grew up in Montana with guns everywhere(in homes, trucks, cars, bars. taverns, outhouses, school, stores: everywhere). Hunting and shooting were a part everyday life.” I grew up in West Texas and the same applied as I was growing up. (Incidently, I was born in Montana.) While I was in High School, most pickup trucks in the school paring lot had a rifle rack in the back window with a loaded rifle in it. The pickups were never locked, and usually had the windows down. No one ever went to the parking lot, got a gun out of a truck and took it into the school and shot anyone. Imagine that!

    As a matter of fact, when I was a senior, I took a rifle, with ammo, and other hunting tools into school for show-and-tell. As I passed by the principles office he confronted me and asked: “What period do you have English class? I want to be there for your show-and-tell report.” As I walked down the halls with that big rifle on my shoulder, no one went running away screaming and I didn’t shoot any one. I made an A on my English project. And the principal was there to see it.

    When I got married, my wife was anti-guns. But I had a loaded 357 magnun on the bed headboard and I took it with us anytime we went out of town. Soon she would ask if I had “My Friend” with us or “I heard a noise, go get your friend”. Now she buys me guns for presents. She bought me a Winchester 12 gauge Defender shotgun for a Valentines present one year. She even has found pleasue in shooting. Although she would not let me buy our daughter a 22 for her 7th birthday, she did let her participate in our family’s annual Thanksgiving “Shoot what you brought” festivities.

    Maybe the BSA should be boycotted and everyone can join their local 4H.

    My Dad and my Grandpa taught and told me; “Son, a gun is like an American Express card…. Don’t ever leave home without it!”

  20. When I grew up guns were everywhere My friend won a Savage 24 via a pull tab game in a tavern. I shot in the Cub Scouts, at summer camp and at school, we also prayed in school.
    But as we can see, American Society has improved greatly by eliminating both!

  21. Wouldn’t have married my woman if she wasn’t completely at ease with AR’s and semi-auto pistols lying about the house, all while she’s carrying her model 10 concealed. Divorce over gun ownership sounds a bit off to me.

  22. I guess my marriage is different than most. We married late. She 31, me 33. We were rock climbing buddies for a few years then things got serious. She had her own gardening business, I was a silicon valley entrepreneur. When we dated, I had two things she didn’t grow up with, whiskey and guns. Lots of guns. When we started to have kids we left California, and bought a farm in Indiana. I had loaded guns in the house, with 4 kids, but the loaded guns and ammo weren’t accessible. There was a shotgun in a glass fronted gun case, and a decorated brick as a bookstop on my dresser. I trained my wife to throw the brick at the glass, get the shotgun and shoot it.
    There was never a choice as to guns or whiskey for her, it was as part of me as breathing. That and motorcycles. Everyone’s different. This worked for us.


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