I love all the statistics that come out at the end of a year. I like to see the various ways of measuring a year just passed that illustrate the progress of human achievement. Growth of our population. The expansion of the productivity of our society. Achievements in social connections, science and medicine across our nation's people. You'll have seen them on CNN and other places that spend a little bit of quality time navel-gazing, comparing the last 12 months to the rest of history.
But here's one you probably haven't seen:
Last year, Wisconsin alone sold 621,000 gun deer licenses (that's licenses to shoot deer with a gun, vs licenses for deer to carry rifles).
By comparison? The total armed forces for modern Germany (pre-reduction) is 250,000.
If I add up the available data for deer shooting licenses sold in just a handful of other states (Michigan, Pennsylvania,West Virginia, and North Dakota, as a sort of semi-random sampling), it's well over 1.8 million happy gun-totin' American hunters.
Let's compare that to the size of various national armed forces I put together from available data:
True, there's some overlap of hunters who go nomad, and hunt across state lines (thereby requiring multiple licenses), but in Wisconsin, for example, this figure is tracked and is less than 5% of the total. And maybe another 5% of those totals represent the growing number of black powder hunters (those guys who, feeling the fully automatic sniper rifle option is just a trifle
The magnitude of these numbers is sometimes hard for my non-American friends to comprehend, when I try to explain the prevalence of the gun culture in the U.S.
Nothing, however, highlights the difference in American readiness for dealing with a post-apocalyptic world than to compare the context between two of my favorite recent TV discoveries.
Consider Survivors - a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) production about the attempts of a small fraction of the population (less than 1%) to carry on in the face of a pandemic that kills off everyone else. In the first two seasons, I saw think I saw 4 guns being wielded by the roaming gangs of increasingly desperate survivors, never more than one at a time per group. 3 of which were double barrel shotguns. The most frequent weapon of choice was a cricket bat or, in one case, a crossbow. The acting Prime Minister is the only one in the quasi-official acting-government commune that has a pistol, which is an almost shocking possession because of its sheer scarcity.
Survivors BBC: Note the guy in the background trying to menace you with his crowbar
Now let's compare the American Movie Classic's new series of last fall: The Walking Dead. Where a similarly small percentage of the population seeks to evade flesh-eating zombies and maintain a sense of society. And every one of the survivors is a walking arsenal.
Hell, the first episode ends with one character seeking refuge in an M1A1 Abrams tank (on the streets of Atlanta, not far from the state capitol. Ah.. memories).
A single character in an American Apocalypse show carries more firepower than any two gangs of British counterparts.
The Walking Dead: loaded for bear, and hunting zombies
Is there a lesson in this? Well, I guess if you're worried about a zombie-fueled end-of-the-world scenario, the US is the place to be.
Otherwise, I'm going to sleep better tonight, knowing that our armed militia will almost certainly be able to keep us safe, in the event that Canada gets uppity.