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Yesterday I had a conversation with my former Scoutmaster. He was giving me a letter formalizing my attainment of the Eagle Scout Rank. He said “Tell me if your Eagle Scout Award is signed by the President: I heard that he wasn’t signing them anymore.” He suggested that perhaps the President was afraid that the BSA organization churned out gun-totin’ men-of-the-mountains. And we simply can’t have that.

In fact, it was the Boy Scouts who taught me to shoot a gun. I got the Rifle Merit Badge some years ago (but, sadly, not the Shotgun Merit Badge). Of course the Rifle Merit Badge course was packed; what thirteen-year-old boy doesn’t want to shoot a gun? There was a hitch, however, as a cranky 50+ year-old NRA representative, to whom gun safety was like the 10 commandments, taught the course. I appreciate its importance now, but at the time I didn’t know why keeping my barrel downrange was really a big deal.

It was with the Scouts again that I shot my first automatic weapon. A year or so later, our troop went down to a police station and they broke out an Uzi, and we were permitted to fire 40 rounds apiece. The officer in charge told us that, for maximum effect, you depress the trigger for about one second, then release. Contrary to what might be expected by a group of boys with an Uzi, most were scared by the sound and the feel of the gun vibrating madly in their hands, and promptly stopped firing.

One kid almost dropped his gun. When my turn came, I was determined to fire that gun for one whole second on my first try. I did, and I pride myself on it to this day. In fact, I still have the target I shot on the wall of my bedroom to this day, backed in red so as to make the bullet holes stand out.

So, if the President wasn’t signing Eagle Scout Awards from fear of encouraging willful enjoyment of firearms, he would have been right, at least on one count. But I did some digging. Turns out there was merely an “interregnum” where the President was too busy to sign about a month’s worth of Eagle Scouts’ Awards. There are, fortunately, some American traditions that even this President can’t ignore.

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