Semi-automatic firearms two Cowichan Valley brothers killed in a police shootout are seen using for target practice in now-deleted social media accounts are likely Chinese replicas that are old, heavy and common, says a B.C. firearms expert.
Rod Giltaca, CEO and executive director of the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, said the weapons were likely Norinco M-305Bs, a Chinese copy of the Springfield Armory M-14.
Buying, selling, transporting, importing or using the semi-automatic M-14 has been banned in Canada since May 2020, along with about 1,500 variants of military-grade assault weapons.
Isaac and Mathew Auchterlonie, both 22, died in a shootout with police after they attempted to rob a Bank of Montreal branch in Saanich on June 28.
Former classmates have said they were triplets and are survived by a sister. Six police officers were injured in the exchange of gunfire, including three who remain in hospital. Hostages inside the bank were safely escorted out by police.
As people try to figure out what motivated the brothers, many have viewed videos and photographs posted to social media in which the two are dressed up to look like Second World War soldiers in camouflage, helmets and goggles. In several images and videos, they are shown firing rifles — in one instance as target practice in the woods.
Giltaca said it’s impossible to know what type of weapons the brothers were carrying during the robbery merely by listening to witness video of gunfire during the shootout.
He said in the past, he has bought a M-305B but found it too heavy and never used it. As for the Springfield Armory M-14, he said it’s very old technology — from the 1950s — that would likely appeal to someone who is interested in its history.
“You can hunt with it, although those guns are very heavy, but it’s pretty much for target shooting and someone that appreciates the old lineage of the firearm … people that like the history of the firearm.”
In another photo, one of the brothers appears to be holding a very old AR-15, but Giltaca doesn’t believe it’s real.
In the now-deleted Instagram account of Isaac Auchterlonie, using the handle @isaacauchter lonie867, there are photos of the young men, who former classmates say graduated from Frances Kelsey Secondary School in Mill Bay in 2018, in camouflage carrying guns.
The account biography for @isaacauchterlonie867 includes anti-government, anti-vaccine, anti-Trudeau and pro-gun content and lists as interests: Canadian, Patriot, WW2 Pacific war enthusiastus [sic], nature, and firearms.
The brothers demonstrated interest in the Canadian Armed Forces, but the Department of National Defence told the Times Colonist that Mathew Auchterlonie did not pass the Canadian Forces aptitude test when he applied. Isaac Auchterlonie participated in DND’s Soldier for a Day program in 2018. Neither was a part of the Armed Forces in any way, said a DND spokesperson.
In several of the Instagram posts, videos are reposted from the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights. In one image, also shot in the forest, one of the Auchterlonie brothers — his face partially covered — poses wearing a beige CCFR T-shirt.
In another post, in response to a letter from the government informing him of the federal ban on assault rifles in Canada, which allows gun owners to keep the firearms as long as they are properly stored and not used, Isaac Auchterlonie posts: “Keep firearms and don’t surrender” and appears to throw the letter in a fire.
Police have not disclosed what type of firearms the brothers were carrying or using in the bank robbery, but Giltaca downplayed the importance of what weapons were used.
“All guns are dangerous,” he said. “You can shoot another person with any kind of gun and it will cause catastrophic damage and that’s why we have some of the strictest gun laws on Earth in Canada.”