CZ-858 popular for its likeness to the AK-47
Czech-made semi-automatic rifle legal under Canada’s gun laws
The gun Richard Henry Bain is suspected of using in a brief, deadly rampage at the Parti Québécois victory party Tuesday closely resembles the iconic Soviet AK-47 assault rifle, with its distinctive wooden stock and curved magazine.
It’s one of about 22 guns Bain is known to have possessed legally, all but one of them registered, crown prosecutor Éliane Perreault said Thursday during Bain’s arraignment at the Montreal courthouse. Perreault said Bain brought five of those guns to the Métropolis, where the PQ party was taking place.
Court records showed the gun the 61-year-old is believed to have used is in fact a CZ-858, a Czech-made semiautomatic rifle imported into Canada as an alternative to the prohibited automatic AK47, which can spray bullets with the trigger held down. The CZ-858 only allows one shot per trigger pull, and under Canadian gun laws, its magazine holds a maximum of five bullets.
First offered on the Canadian market in 2005, the “tactical” large-calibre rifle with a shooting range of 2.5 kilometres was an immediate hit. It sells for $695 to gun collectors, sport shooters and hunters, and can be obtained in a week, sent to anyone with a valid Possession and Acquisition Licence.
“It has proved very popular because it’s the nearest anyone is going to get to an AK,” John Hipwell, the owner of the Wolverine Supplies gun dealership based in Manitoba, told the Ottawa Citizen in 2007. So popular, a Canadian version is available with a maple leaf engraved into the pistol grip. Employees at Wolverine Supplies would not comment Thursday on how sales are doing. Hipwell was away and unreachable, they said. Sales of the gun used by Kimveer Gill at Dawson College in 2006 surged after his deadly spree.
By late 2006, the federal gun registry recorded more than 900 of the CZ-858s legally registered in Canada. Nearly 80 per cent of owners live in urban or suburban areas, the Citizen investigation found. The RCMP was unable to provide more recent statistics Thursday.
The Coalition for Gun Control has used the CZ-858 as an example of why the federal government’s long-gun registry, abolished in April, should have been maintained. Considered a hunting rifle, the CZ-858 no longer needs to be registered on the firearms registry. Quebec filed a request for an injunction in Superior Court, so residents here still have to register nonrestricted weapons.
Although the CZ-858 may resemble an AK-47, the two are completely different, said Tony Bernardo, president of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association and critic of the long-gun registry.
“It looks pretty racy, but it is a standard, semi-automatic firearm, like the semi-automatic .22 every farm kid grew up with,” he said. “It’s like saying there’s a difference between little cars and big cars.”
The killing of lighting technician Denis Blanchette was a terrible tragedy, Bernardo said, but forcing people to register unrestricted weapons will not stop similar events from happening.
“It’s awful when someone misuses something like this, but in terms of the registry, it did not work,” he said. “Again and again and again and again, it doesn’t work, it never did work, it’s never going to work and any government that throws hundreds of millions into (it) is irresponsible. It might make people feel good, but it doesn’t work.”
Those who want to obtain a firearm have to take a weekend safety course and are screened by multiple police forces that keep constant track of them, Bernardo noted.
Bain has no criminal record. Friends reported he was seeing a doctor for mental issues of late, but showed no signs of being dangerous.
The Coalition for Gun Control said Thursday they preferred not to comment for fear of being accused of using a tragedy to further their cause. But a member did say that Tuesday’s events underscore the need for greater gun control.
Rémi Landry, an associate professor at the Université de Sherbrooke and a former lieutenant-colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces, noted that the CZ-858 is similar to the AK-47, with a few crucial differences: the CZ is more powerful, and it’s known among experts for not being as good. “It is not as reliable,” he said.
Witnesses have reported the gun used Tuesday night jammed suddenly, allowing police and bystanders to lock him outside the Métropolis before anyone else could be harmed.
The CZ-858 has been on the market in Canada since 2005, selling for about $695. Most owners live in cities or suburbs.