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Knife ban cuts to heart of scouting

Outdoors folk in this country see it as a plus that we separated ourselves from British rule some 200 plus years ago.

In England, individual gun-ownership rights have been severely restricted after mass shootings and fox hunts were canceled when anti-hunting factions dominated Britain's legislature.

Now, scouting authorities there have officially banned youths from using Boy Scout knives while participating in Scout programs. A UK Scouts spokesman defended the ban with these remarks: "The Scout Association plays a key role in helping young people develop the confidence, maturity, and self-esteem they need to play active and responsible roles in their communities, and to resist the peer pressure that may attract them into local gang culture.

"We believe that young people need more places to go after school and at weekends, where they can experience adventure without the threat of violence or bullying and the need to carry weapons.

"Scouting helps to prepare young people with valuable life skills, while keeping them safe by not carrying knives."

Wow.

The gist of the UK spokesman's remarks is that danger lurks everywhere, gangs are the only gathering points for kids, and knives are nothing more than weapons.

That's sad. As a kid living in Western New York, I belonged to one of those "gangs." It was called Troop 28 in Angola.

Scout Master Ware conducted meetings at local fire halls, took us on outings at area camps and coordinated all kinds of activities in which youngsters learned hands-on skills and character-building behavioral practices.

We learned of Lord (Robert Stephenson Smyth) Baden-Powell, an organizational wizard from -- of all places -- England. He founded a Boy Scouts movement in 1907-08 that led to formation of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910.

Baden-Powell's father died when the lad was 3 years old. He began "scouting" as a very young child. One story has him taking his knife and trap out in the back fields to catch, clean and cook rabbits.

Those field skills, apparently, no longer apply to youths in England.

Effective uses of knives while scouting extend well past simply using a cutting blade. An official Boy Scout knife also has bottle- and can-opener devices, a file or two, and perhaps a corkscrew, scissors, nail clippers and all manner of other tooling accessories that could be found on a Swiss Army knife.

Through all those years of learning tool skills with a Boy Scout knife, I cannot recall one incident of a fellow Scout using a knife to injure another. In fact, I can't even think of one time that a boy used his knife to scare or intimidate another Scout.
A knife should not be considered an evil weapon used to threaten, harm, or injure.

A sharpened Boy Scout knife -- the ones I used as a kid -- could open cans, trim sticks, and even chop meat and veggies when cooking at camp. The thought of "weaponry" never entered minds of Scouts I knew as a youth.

Knife Rights, a knife-owner's equivalent to the NRA for gun owners, began pointing out these governmental and group efforts to enact laws, regulations and restrictions on knife use.

At first, skeptics saw KR pronouncements as possibly paranoid. Then agencies kicked in with bans on pocket knives -- not only in planes but public and private buildings. Recently, immigration authorities began redefining the switchblade.

Now, British Boy Scouts, in the country where the Scouts' founder learned and taught knife-use skills, will be kept safe "by not carrying knives."

The "valuable life skills" British scouting authorities proclaim no longer include knives, which were part of what Baden-Powell considered when he urged Scouts to "be prepared."

Look more closely at the skills touted in the British ban announcement. The speaker cites "confidence, maturity, and self-esteem," all good but egocentric attributes. But outdoors survival and mutual respect for others are not mentioned in their plans and hopes for good British Scouts.

As an Eagle Scout I learned outdoors skills with knives, axes, saws, and other tools hardly deemed weapons. We learned confidence, gained maturity, and did not need an authorized issuance of self-esteem.

John Denver thanked God he was a country boy. I'm just glad I grew up an American kid who learned how to hunt and how to whittle -- without the crown slicing at my knife-usage rights.

To learn more about the many existing and proposed bans and restrictions on knives, go to KnifeRights.org.

e-mail: willodrs@gmail.com

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