The demand for the world’s most popular assault rifle, the AK-47 - better known by its other name the Kalashnikov - is ending up, not in the hands of soldiers, but in the hands of Americans.
According to the New York Times:
Despite the gun’s violent history — or perhaps because of it — American hunters and gun enthusiasts are snapping up tens of thousands of Kalashnikov rifles and shotguns. Demand is so brisk that the factory has shifted its focus from military to civilian manufacture over the last two years.
United States sales of the civilian versions, sold under the brand name Saiga, rose by 50 percent last year, according to officials at the factory, known as Izhmash.
Over all, the United States is the world’s biggest market for civilian guns. That is partly because of comparatively lenient gun ownership laws.
Russian weapons accounted for a tiny portion of the $4.3 billion American gun market last year, but Saiga sales rose far faster than the overall growth rate of 14 percent in 2011.
As for gun laws in Russia as compared to America:
Izhmash benefits from American gun laws that are looser than in its home market. In Russia, consumers can buy a long-barreled firearm only with a police permit, which requires a clean criminal sheet, a diploma from a gun safety course and a medical certificate of sanity. In the United States, laws vary by state, but buyers often need to clear only an F.B.I. criminal background check.
However, gun control in Russia is less strict than in some other former Soviet countries. Estonia, for example, proscribes carrying a weapon while drunk.
The AK-47 is the most used rifle in history, as it has put on a pedestal for its durability and power. But why do we need these guns on American streets?