The AP’s Henry Meyer has a chat with assault rifle pioneer Mikhail Kalashnikov.
“Whenever I look at TV and I see the weapon I invented to defend my motherland in the hands of these bin Ladens I ask myself the same question: How did it get into their hands?” the 86-year-old Russian gun maker (above) said.
“I didn’t put it in the hands of bandits and terrorists and it’s not my fault that it has mushroomed uncontrollably across the globe. Can I be blamed that they consider it the most reliable weapon?” he said.
The question is especially acute as an 11-day U.N. conference on curbing the small-arms trade convenes June 26 in New York. Kalashnikov is thinking of sending the delegates a statement.
Sturdy, simple and cheap, firing 600 bullets a minute, the world’s estimated 100 million Kalashnikovs account for up to 80 percent of all assault rifles. In Africa’s civil conflicts or in violence-ridden Latin American nations, it sells for as little as $15.
Kalashnikov, despite his advanced age, is still chief designer of the state-controlled company.
He says he never made a kopeck in royalties because his invention was never patented.
“At that time, patenting inventions wasn’t an issue in our country. We worked for socialist society, for the good of the people, which I never regret,” he said.
Meyer, regrettably, doesn’t solicit an opinion from Kalashnikov about the unique social views of Mrs. AK-47, but I do understand that real reporters are very pressed for time.