By Scott Taylor
I happened to catch a news item on CBC’s The National last Thursday night that illustrates how modern Russian society celebrates their association with the world famous Kalashnikov assault rifle.
It is true that, since it was first created by gun designer Mikhail Kalashnikov back in 1947, the weapon that still bears his name has become the most prolific assault rifle around the globe. It is simple to operate and rugged enough to withstand the most inhospitable conditions. It is also relatively cheap to produce and therefore apopular option for armies in developing countries, and guerrilla forces.
However, the spin put on the Kalashnikov by the CBC reporter was that Russians are glorifying a weapon that, in her words, is the “choice of criminals, thugs, and soldiers.” This would of course be a terrible national trait — celebrating criminal armaments — were it even remotely true.
A quick check of the facts reveals that assault weapons are used in less than two per cent of gun-related crimes committed in North America, and of that miniscule fraction, only a small percentage are of the Kalashnikov variety.
To illustrate just how much love Russia has for this historical automatic weapon, the CBC filmed a Moscow nightclub wherein two deactivated AK-47 Kalashnikovs had been cleverly used to replace the handles on the club’s front doors. Those Russians really must be firearm crazy!
Then there was the CBC trip to a kiosk at the Moscow airport operated by none other than the Kalashnikov manufacturing company. The merchandise that seemed to most fascinate the reporter was the collection of Kalashnikov t-shirts that came in — wait for it — children’s sizes. More proof that these whacky Russians begin indoctrinating even their young infants into a sort of gun-worship mentality as soon as they can walk.
Of course it is worth remembering that this kiosk is at the airport, where local citizens are not usually prone to shop for clothing, therefore the merchandise is obviously intended as souvenirs for foreigners.
Still, CBC is our state-funded national broadcaster and they must have had their reasons for providing this segment on Russian gun worship.
A quick bit of research will reveal that there are an estimated 14 million privately owned firearms in Russia. That’s a staggering ratio of 8.9 weapons for every 100 residents.
That seems to be an arsenal worth scarring the bejeezus out of Canadians, especially as we do not worship guns and we pride ourselves on strict gun control laws. Except that Canada’s private gun ownership dwarfs that of Russia with a ratio of 30.8 weapons for every 100 residents.
This could perhaps be partially explained by the fact that we share a common border with the United States. Talk about a scary gun culture! The U.S. has a ratio of 112.6 privately owned firearms in America for every 100 residents. That is three times the Canadian average, and more than nine times the gun owner ratio of Russia.
As for indoctrinating their youth, it took only seconds of research on the Internet to find images of a pink baby girl’s onesie adorned with twin holsters and automatic pistols — for sale in the U.S.A.
As for lionizing individual weapons, American gun aficionados still affectionately refer to the Colt .44 Peacemaker revolver as the “gun that won the West” without any historical reflection on what that meant in terms of displacing Indigenous peoples at the time.
Instead of trying so desperately to demonize the Russians over their comparatively tiny gun ownership, perhaps CBC News should focus more on the real dangers in our own backyard.