Boy Scouts get their bullets

2013-06-19T14:30:00Z 2013-06-19T19:50:15Z Boy Scouts get their bulletsBy JONATHAN EDWARDS / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Boy Scouts: Fire away.

Three months ago, local Scout leaders thought a shortage of bullets might force them to teach about 1,000 campers how to shoot and handle firearms with air guns instead of .22 caliber rifles.

So they asked for donations, aimed at bagging 24,000 rounds by the time Camp Cornhusker started.

Gun owners bombarded them with a fusillade -- more than 65,000 bullets from donors as far away as Florida. An Iowa man gave more than 10,000 rounds, said Jerad Reimers, Cornhusker Council district director.

The Cornhusker Council not only ended its Great Bullet Drought of 2013; administrators have enough rounds to teach safe shooting for the next three years, he said.

“We were just happy to see people still believe scouting is relevant,” Reimers said, adding that learning to handle a gun right is “an absolute necessity.”

William Cover, the council's program director for camps, agrees.

“We in America have a culture that does involve firearms. We want to make sure our young people are instructed in their proper and safe usage,” Cover said.

Practicing with BB guns just isn't the same, even if they look like the real McCoy, Reimers said. A Scout won't treat the shooting experience the same way, because it's not.

“It's not quite gonna be the same to him,” said Eric Hayward, 16, who's an assistant at Camp Cornhusker's shotgun and rifle range. “It's gonna be more to the camper if he gets an actual chance to shoot a gun as opposed to a training aid that just looks nice.”

In late March, local Boy Scouts had a quarter of the rounds they needed to make it through their summer camps, and less than 10 percent of what they have now.

Reimers said he tried to order 15,000 rounds early this year through typical channels -- wholesalers such as Scheels or Cabela's -- but struck out again and again.

Gun owners stockpiled ammunition after the Sandy Hook school shooting in December and President Barack Obama's call for new gun control laws.

“It seems no matter who we contact, the answer is the same: 'We don't have any now. We don't know when we will get more. We will not sell you the amount you require, or any large quantity for that matter, and we are not taking back orders,'” the council's website said in March.

Even if Reimer had found a supplier who could have hooked him up with the number of rounds the Scouts needed this summer, higher prices would have gobbled the entire program budget.

So early in March, Reimers and other council leaders called on local gun owners for help. They got 1,500 rounds in the first few weeks before their story hit the wires and appeared in newspapers across the country.

Troop 256 Scoutmaster Kevin Potratz said he doesn't own any guns, so his two sons wouldn't have learned about shooting and handling them safely it if hadn't been for Scouting.

“If you don't touch them and don't have experience with them, you kinda miss something,” Potratz said, adding that learning how to handle guns is a key part of the Boy Scouts experience.

“Knowing about firearms is just good citizenship.”

Reach Jonathan Edwards at 402-473-7395 or jedwards@journalstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/LJSedwards.

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