CZ-858 pop­u­lar for its like­ness to the AK-47

Czech-made semi-au­to­matic ri­fle le­gal un­der Canada’s gun laws

Montreal Gazette - - Shooting Aftermath - rbruem­[email protected] mon­tre­al­ RENé BRUEM­MER

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.


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