You can always tell when we have officially run out of real problems. We make some.
In a recent discussion with a group of Scouters the issue of knives came up. What is the “Official Policy” on what a Scout can and can not carry. What is the length that he can or can not have?
OK.. so I will give you the “Officially Policy” and then some opinion.
Page 60 of the Guide to Safe Scouting states; “A sharp pocketknife with a can opener on it is an invaluable backcountry tool. Keep it clean, sharp, and handy. Avoid large sheath knives. They are heavy and awkward to carry, and unnecessary for most camp chores except for cleaning fish. Since its inception, Boy Scouting has relied heavily on an outdoor program to achieve its objectives. This program meets more of the purposes of Scouting than any other single feature. We believe we have a duty to instill in our members, youth and adult, the knowledge of how to use, handle, and store legally owned knives with the highest concern for safety and responsibility.Remember—knives are not allowed on school premises, nor can they be taken aboard commercial aircraft.”
Further, from the Boy Scouts of America website “Sheath knives are not prohibited by the BSA, but they may be regulated by state or local ordinances and/or by camp “rules.” We recommend that the right tool for the job be used (cutting branches or ropes). We do not encourage wearing them at the waist as injury could occur during falls.” reference General Health and Safety FAQ’s
The BSA does not restrict the length of the blade, nor does it require a blade to be folding or fixed. The policy requires that we abide by state and local rules and that we use the right tool for the right job.
The question came up as to what I allow the Scouts in my Troop to wear/use. Here is how I see it.
The Scout is required to earn his Totin’ Chip before he is allowed to carry and use a Knife, Saw, and Ax. The Totin’ Chip certifies that the Scout has the right to carry and use woods tools. The Scout must show his Scout leader that he understands his responsibility to do the following:
Read and understand woods tools use and safety rules from the Boy Scout Handbook.
Demonstrate proper handling, care, and use of the pocket knife, ax, and saw.
Use knife, ax, and saw as tools, not playthings.
Respect all safety rules to protect others.
Respect property. Cut living and dead trees only with permission and good reason.
Subscribe to the Outdoor Code.
Once the Scout has demonstrated that he can use the knife safely and he agrees to use it as a tool then the Scout can be held in account. He can lose the privilege of carrying a knife as quick as he earn the right to use it.
If a Scout would like to carry a sheath knife, I have no problem with it. I recommend that he chooses one that is the right tool for what he is using it for. I recommend that the blade be no more than 4 inches. This way he has good control over it and it complies with local rules. Since I live in Oregon, it is important for me to know what the laws are. According the Boy Scouts of America, it is the local laws and policies that dictate what a Scout can and can not carry.
In Oregon, it is legal to own pretty much any knife and you can carry it (open carry) anytime you want. Certain exceptions apply of course, but for our purpose a Scout can carry pretty much any knife he wants.
Now, having said that, it comes down to the right tool for the job.
So the discussion then becomes, what does a Scout use his knife for?
Cutting kindling for fires, cutting line or rope, preparing meals, and whittling for the most part. So what is the right tool for those jobs. Certainly a sword would not be appropriate and a Rambo survival knife is not necessary either. A simple pocket or sheath knife will do.
This is where the adult leader steps in to be a teacher. It is not a matter of what they can carry, it becomes a matter of what do you use it for? In that discussion with your Scouts you outline the right tool for the job and allow them to make that reasonable choice. I will tell you with 100% certainty that we have had that talk and have never seen a “Rambo Knife” on a camp out.
I personally carry a Mora knife. It is sharp, handy, and useful. The particular model I carry is made by Mora and Light My Fire. It has a striker in the handle. It has a 3 1/2 blade and I have used it to butter bread and baton wood for a camp fire. It has a hard sheath which locks the knife in place. Here is a little video from Light my Fire on the knife that I carry.
We recommend that our Scouts only carry a small knife. A pocket knife or a sheath knife either one is ok. We ask that they focus on the job and using the right tool. Many of our Scouts carry a multi tool like the Leatherman. This is fine also. The fact of the matter is that I just want them to use it properly… or get your right taken away.
That is the rule that we should focus on, not the knife itself.
Like I said, I think we have far too much time on our hands and not enough real problems that we are worried about the length of a blade. As with most if not all things in Scouting you must train them and then trust them.
Do you have a unit policy when it comes to knives? I am curious to hear what that looks like.
Have a Great Scouting Day!