Thursday, September 11, 2014


This month's Rant is based upon a magazine article I wrote in 2011.

We’ve all see the bumper stickers: “The 2nd Amendment is not about duck hunting.”
Definitely true.  But maybe the Second Amendment is linked to deer hunting.

Consider this:

A popular email circulating in The Gun Culture notes that in a recent season, Wisconsin alone fielded 600,000 hunters.  According to Badger State sources, that number would equal the eighth largest army on earth, which is true (after the active-duty military of Turkey and ahead of Iran).  Reportedly Michigan’s hunters numbered about 700,000 and Pennsylvanians approached 750,000.

Actually, the email was wrong.  Checking online, we find that in 2009 Wisconsin sold 843,000 deer licenses, including 638,000 for firearms.  And Pennsylvanians purchased 948,000 general hunting licenses for the 2009-2010 season. 

Then there’s Michigan.  Between 2004 and 2009, those folks purchased an average of 1.56 million deer tags annually, including bow hunters. If that number represented individuals, the Wolverine State fell between the active military strengths of China and the United States.

So what’s the foregoing have to do with preserving our right to bear arms?

The Founders were deeply mistrustful of a standing army, with good reason.  They had just won the war for American independence from Britain, which possessed the greatest army on earth.  The Second Amendment was crafted as a check on the greedy grasp of government: a permanent deterrent and, if necessary, an active resistance.  That’s why they placed so much emphasis upon personally-owned arms.

Reportedly other people took note.  Again reverting to internet sources (caveat emptor anyone?) they included Japan’s Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto who planned the Pearl Harbor attack.  Allegedly he advised against an invasion of North America “because there would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.”

Like the more famous quote about awaking a sleeping giant, Yamamoto’s purported statement regarding armed Americans cannot be verified.  (There’s some evidence that the statement was made by another Japanese officer.)  Certainly Yamamoto was aware of widespread civilian firearms ownership, as he studied in the U.S. during the 1920s.  More pertinent, however, is logistics—the axle upon which all wars turn.  By 1942 Japan was engaged in a long war in China while expanding its holdings in Asia and the Pacific, stretching its shipping to the limit.  With a population of 100 million, the Japanese Empire had no prospect of conquering 130 million Americans—even if the Japanese could get here.         

However, it’s interesting to speculate upon the Empire of the Sun clashing with tens of thousands of American deerstalkers armed with Winchester 94s and Model 70s.

Today the military-industrial complex’s go-to bogeyman is China, which is not about to start a war with its number one trade partner.  That feud would destroy both economies, but the Pentagon and the pols need somebody as an excuse for buying platinum-plated stealth airplanes and submarines.

So let’s set aside the Who for a moment and look at the What.  What would an invader face, aside from the U.S. military?

It’s called the unorganized militia.

Presently the U.S. armed forces involve 1.47 million active and 1.45 million reserve component personnel: 2.92 million at home and abroad.

What’s left to oppose our hypothetical invasion?

For starters, it’s not several million deerstalkers.  Those merely with hunting licenses are not the Founders’ bulwark against oppression. They’re just where you start the winnowing process.  (Some background: c. 1980 an Oregon IPSC friend was a game warden.  He conducted some impromptu field tests of random nimrods and found that the average effective range on a paper plate was about 40 yards.  On the other hand, some of us know people who’ve made one-shot kills at 300 yards.)

Meanwhile, let’s omit the NRA.  It has about 4 million members but there’s no telling how many are proficient marksmen.

So what’s the likely number to resist oppression?

Consider how many Americans bag a deer every year.  It’s far less than the number of hunting licenses but it’s a good starting point.  After all, anyone who spends money, time, and effort tromping around the woods, being cold and uncomfortable for the chance to fire one round, is a candidate for resistance.

Based on available data, we conducted a tedious state by state survey of deer “harvested” nationwide by adult rifle hunters. (Bow hunters typically account for 11 to 34% of deer taken.)  Much of the information is incomplete: useful figures for Florida, Montana, and Oregon are unavailable, and there is little deer hunting in Alaska and Hawaii.  Other states only show totals of deer taken without breaking out archers, juvenile or out of state hunters.  In order to guesstimate rifle hunters for those states, we split the average of bow hunters, deducting 20% from the overall figures. 

Our figures have obvious glitches.  Many states permit multiple tags, usually with drawings for various areas and controlled hunts beyond the general season. But by rounding, we should achieve a fairly conservative total of competent riflemen over age 16. 

Excepting the states noted above, our accounting shows that typically 4,985,000 rifle hunters bag a deer annually.  Taking an extremely minimal total for the uncounted states, we rounded up to an even 5 million, still 30 percent more than the combined U.S. military-police total of 3.8 million.

Would all of those 5 million actively resist?  They’re certainly more likely to do so than those who simply buy a license or belong to an organized group.  Of course, we all know some extremely dedicated folks who have never filled a game tag, so let’s call it a push.

Comes “the day.”  What happens when 5 million riflemen decide to fire one round a week, apportioned daily? 

China has 2.28 million active military and 800,000 reserves.  North Korea has 1.1 million active and 8.2 million reserves, counting all branches.  Nobody else is close in either category, though North Korea cannot even feed itself. 

So, being whimsical…

If The War begins with hordes of enemy parachutes descending across the nation on Monday morning (you recall the scene in Red Dawn), it probably ends Tuesday morning, after potentially 714,000 rounds are fired.  With 70 percent accuracy (the shooters are all successful hunters) that’s almost 500,000 hits--likely more than the total number of exposed targets at one time nationwide.

If 10 percent of the deerslayers decide to resist, that’s half a million rounds per week, or 71,400 per day with 50,000 hits in the first 24 hours.

If only 1 percent of the deerslayers decide to resist, that’s still 50,000 rounds per week, or 7,100 rounds per day yielding 5,000 hits.  That war could last a few days, but the round count probably is more than enough to preserve the nation for its rightful owners.

Just as the Founders intended.