Lessons from Colorado

NickImage

For the third time the state of Colorado has witnessed a murderer run amok. The first occasion took place in 1999 at Columbine High School. The second occurred in 2007 at the offices of Youth With A Mission in Arvada and in the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. The most recent, and the bloodiest, has just taken place in the Century 16 Theater in Aurora. Given these episodes and others like them, certain lessons are worth pointing out.

The first is that human suffering is real. The mayhem within the theater was only the beginning of the anguish that will result from one individual’s sinful choices. The pain of this event will scar many people for many years. Individuals who were not touched by the bullets were nevertheless touched by the trauma. The victims include loved ones who were not even in the theater but whose lives will never be the same because of the terror that was let loose. In the face of such suffering, no feeling person can remain unmoved. Our hearts go out to those whose lives have been ended or forever altered by this crime. Our souls yearn for the appearance of the One who will bring true and lasting peace and righteousness to the earth.

The second lesson is that evil is real. The murderer has already been characterized by many as a psychopath, but even psychosis does not have to result in this kind of slaughter. An individual made a choice to unleash horror. He did not accomplish this deed in a moment. He had a bright mind, he planned carefully, and he acted in ways that were calculated to bring maximum hurt to people who had never harmed him. Whether or not some pathology was involved, this act was vicious and malevolent. The right word for this man and his deed is evil. In a fallen world, the existence of evil must be taken into account. Christians should allow no naïve utopianism to stand unchallenged. Evil is alive and well on planet earth.

Third, governments cannot stop the sort of evil that occurred at Century 16. They have only a limited ability to defend their citizens from this kind of violence. Officers of the law despair of being able to stop such crimes. Commenting on this kind of event—random shootings perpetrated by lone gunmen—former FBI agent Peter Ahern said, “There’s no way you can prevent it. There’s absolutely no way.”

In a sense, Ahern is too pessimistic. There are ways to strongly tilt the odds against another mass shooting. For example, the government could outlaw public gatherings of more than three people. Or it could release squads of police officers to conduct random searches in homes and on the streets, arresting anyone whom they suspect might commit a crime. Such measures, however, are so draconian that they would actually produce greater harm than good. The liberties that citizens would surrender are far more important than the risk of being caught in a random shooting.

Fourth, when governments cannot protect their citizens, it becomes prudent and even necessary for citizens to attend to their own protection. People have no obligation to permit themselves to be struck down by predators and evil men. On the contrary, they have a right to defend their lives, limbs, and property. They also have a duty (when it is within their power) to defend the innocent.

Fifth, sometimes the restraint of violence calls for violence. The cliché that violence always begets violence is an affectation of navel-gazing mystics and the Woodstock generation. Sometimes violence, when it is rightly administered, brings an end to violence. Sometimes the just exercise of violence is the only way to end unjust violence. Sometimes peace is achieved through strength. No qualitative difference exists between calling on someone else (such as the police) to exert force in one’s behalf and exerting force for one’s self. If they were consistent, people who object to using violence against violence would never call for the police when they were being assaulted.

Incidentally, the allowance of violence in the exercise of justice is one of the principal differences between Baptists and Anabaptists. This is not the time to revisit the arguments (though they should be reviewed, perhaps in a future essay), but Baptists have believed that Scripture supports the right of just authorities to wage war and to execute certain criminals. Together with other Christians they have also believed that, under most circumstances, Scripture allows for the use of deadly force in the defense of one’s self and the lives of others. Baptists have been willing to serve as magistrates, to fight in just wars, and to take (predatory) life in the defense of (innocent) life.

Sixth, if the defense of life is ever a right—let alone a duty—then any law that deprives people of the necessary means of defense is an unjust law. It is a law that moral people may disregard. When a government forbids the means of self-defense (as distinct from state defense, which requires weapons of war), then it is overstepping its licit authority. From a biblical point of view, it may and often should be safely disobeyed.

Seventh, one of the worst ways of exposing people to violence is to herd them into zones in which they are publicly labeled as defenseless victims. This is precisely what happened at the Century 16 Theater. The state of Colorado allows its citizens to carry the means of defense, but both Century 16 and its parent company, Cinemark Century Theaters, disallow it. The predator (a bright guy from all accounts) did not plan to shoot up a police station. He planned his assault for a location filled with disarmed, defenseless victims. If the Century 16 Theater had permitted the necessary means of defense, the result would have been much the same as if the shooting had occurred in a police station. The death toll could have remained as low as two: the first victim and the perpetrator. Century 16 and Cinemark bear part of the responsibility for this catastrophe.

To understand this point, one need only consider the disparity between Colorado’s three recent shooting sprees. The Columbine shooting and the Cinemark shooting both occurred in disarmed-victim zones, and in each episode the death toll was staggering. The other shooting spree (the one that began at YWAM and ended at New Life Church), however, was cut short when a church lady, Jean Assam, applied the necessary means of defense to the shooter. This is the spree that fewer people remember, probably because it hardly began before it ended.

Some have suggested that a believer should willingly exchange his life for the life of an assailant. They reason that the believer, if killed, goes straight to heaven, but if the assailant is killed he loses every opportunity for salvation. This theory may work when the believer is entering an assailant’s territory and no other good is being risked (e.g., Jim Eliot and Nate Saint refusing to fire upon the Aucas).

Imagine the chaos that would result if every Christian police officer tried to live (which is to say, die) by this theory. No, the theory is terribly myopic, in part because it takes no account of further harm that the assailant will do, both to believers and unbelievers. Granted, application of the means of self defense within the Century 16 Theater may have ended the assailant’s opportunity for salvation. Not being able to apply that means, however, ended the opportunities of many more people. Given a choice, it would be better to see the perpetrator being carried out and a dozen others granted the chance to repent.

Two Went up into the Temple to Pray
Richard Crashaw (c. 1613–1649)

Two went to pray? O rather say
One went to brag, th’ other to pray:

One stands up close and treads on high,
Where th’ other dares not send his eye.

One nearer to God’s altar trod,
The other to the altar’s God.

[node:bio/kevin-t-bauder body]

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There are 22 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

... that "evil" quite the right word for this man and what he's done. The reason I hesitate is that I can't comprehend the motive. Evil people kill people to gain property, power, revenge, etc. What does one gain from killing and wounding a bunch of random people in a theater? 

And if the guy's mind is so twisted he thinks there is something to gain from a random shooting rampage, what kind of "choices" did he really make? Is it a choice when the options are deep in some kind of twisted imaginary fantasy? I'm not sure what to call it.

I'm not ruling out that he is simply an evil man. I'm just not ready to dismiss the insanity angle. Perhaps he is a man consumed by anger and the motive was simply rage. I would call that evil.

As for the rest, couldn't agree more! This is especially well said...

Kevin wrote:
Fifth, sometimes the restraint of violence calls for violence. The cliché that violence always begets violence is an affectation of navel-gazing mystics and the Woodstock generation. Sometimes violence, when it is rightly administered, brings an end to violence. Sometimes the just exercise of violence is the only way to end unjust violence.

I need to get my concealed-carry permit. Have to ask myself, do I want to be the guy who could have put the murderer down (and saved many lives) but didn't because he didn't get around to getting his permit?

Ethically, I don't think it matters whether the shooter is evil or insane or some kind of mix. When something like that happens, the defenseless need someone to put a bullet in the shooter as quickly as possible.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

The guy mostly fits the profile of a mass murderer- probably killing in response to a perceived wrong by society, as well as a desire to be infamous. It may seem random to us because as far as we know he did not know any of the victims, but in his mind, they represent something or someone he does know that engenders rage and probably a significant degree of paranoia. 

It's similar to a serial killer who chooses a particular type of woman for his victims- he is 'trying' to kill his mother or some other female that makes him feel inadequate, and in essence he practices killing her by killing other women until he gets the courage to kill the one he really wants to kill. Ed Kemper is a good example of that kind of murderer. 

The Aurora shooter planned this to a degree that illustrates the depths of depravity of which man is capable. I'm OK with calling it evil. It was far too premeditated for him to claim insanity. Insane people don't wear body armor before they go off to commit a crime- truly insane people are compelled to act, regardless of the risk. Taking risk into account proves his ability to 1) know what he was about to do was wrong 2) dangerous 3) could result in his own death. He carefully chose and staged his time and place. I can't imagine that an insanity plea is going to wash in court. 

Ohio is a CCW state, and it is VERY irritating to have a license to carry and then not be allowed to carry in a store or library or bank, for cryin' out loud. It's the people who don't have a CCW you have to worry about, because they are not going to obey the sign on the door. Duh.

dmicah's picture

I was totally tracking until the end in relation to whether the guy could lose his chance at salvation. Seemed very tangential.

but as to the ccw rules. this scenario is not a great test case for licensed carriers to stop an assailant. without extensive training and some previous experience with tear gas, a person with a pistol would most likely have only jeopardized others considering the lines of sight and limited lighting. Not to mention he had a lot of body armor on. A pistol would have needed a very accurately placed shot to combat a guy with a shotgun and AR15.

This scenario could have been stopped by tackling the assailant & disarming him. The challenge is that unless you have experienced this type of chaotic event, i.e. soldier, police officer, it's extremely difficult to think calmly & clearly. Very few can think beyond protection of themselves and others, and move into a mode of taking on the assailant. 

So I don't think getting frustrated at the laws or the limitations imposed on those laws by the theater really answers this situation. 

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I agree that during this incident in particular it would have been difficult to get off a clean shot. Handguns are much harder to use than most people realize. It ain't like TV. But the frustration about having a CCW is about the same as having a driver's license but seeing a sign on the highway that says "No Cars Allowed- Next 1,000 Feet". If you are legally carrying a gun, why shouldn't you be able to carry it into a building? The only thing a locked door does is keep honest men honest. It doesn't do anything to prevent a criminal from coming in.

dmicah's picture

i agree, real life ain't tv.

i'm ex-police, love shooting guns for fun, and carry them regularly for personal protection.  It takes repeated exposure to deadly situations to be mentally prepared for chaos on this magnitude. it's why these movie goers, even the navy personnel, didn't have a chance.

 

 

Shaynus's picture

Micah, 

 

Let's say the man wasn't wearing body armor, or was shooting a less powerful gun. The point remains that the cinema should not prohibit law abiding citizens from carrying protection. I wouldn't say a citizen would have endangered others by returning fire since the perp was at the front of the theater with no one behind him. A lucky shot could have got him in the face. They would have had a better chance if they were armed. Small chance doesn't equal no chance.

Citizens can emphatically behave brilliantly when faced with violence. Take this retiree in Florida who fired upon two robbers just days before Aurora. His tactics and execution under stress were perfect. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fD_W765P_JE

 

Shayne

Rob Fall's picture

even with a "bullet proof" vest, a suitably calibered at close range handgun would still do major damage to the unsuspecting.   By major damage, I mean a bruised or broken sternum or rib(s).  The vest doesn't protect against the impact of the bullet.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

JD Miller's picture

Good point Rob.  A bullet proof vest is not a shield that just makes bullets bounce off.  I'm surprised dmicah didn't point that out considering that he is ex police.  (BTW thank you very much dmicah.  I'm a former sheriff's dept chaplain and I really appreciate the dangerous situations officers have to put themselves in- it is actually one of those officers that I used to work with that has been encouraging me to take a concealed carry class).  

The point that dmicah is making should not be ignored though.  I actually think that because it is so hard to stay calm and have good shot placement, we should hope that multiple guys would be carrying, not just one. 

At the same time, anyone who does carry must realize the danger of collateral damage.  My brother in law recently took a concealed carry class and realized that he was not calm enough to carry and has decided not to get his license. 

Anyone who is not comfortable carrying should not do so, but just today I thanked a guy who carries.  I told him that I feel like my family is safer because of guys like him.  I fear that someday a concealed carrier will accidently shoot a kid while trying to defend someone, but I also think that many kids have been saved simply because fewer criminals are willing to take the chance of assaulting someone because some law abiding citizen might be carrying a gun.

dmicah's picture

rob & shaynus,

as to armor, this guy had on more than a simple piece of body armor apparently. He had shielded himself pretty well. as we learned in the LA bank robbery back in the early 90's ballistic armor can repel a lot of pistol rounds. if he had ceramic inserts in the torso area, pistol rounds would not affect him. obviously getting shot would have gotten his attention (especially the face/neck). that doesn't mean he would not have continued to spray the room with bullets.

also, i'm not implying that ordinary citizens can't respond in stressful situations. that does happen pretty regularly. What i'm referring to is a dark crowded room, overtaken with tear gas and a guy with multiple semi-automatic high powered weapons.  300 people screaming, diving, trying to find exits. that scenario is complete chaos. thus this case is NOT the case to base a ccw argument upon. 

I am all for ccw. the cinema should not restrict them. But there was a minute chance a gun holder could have stopped him in that mess.

I'm arguing from experience. I've been in multiple deadly force situations and in multiple events disarmed guys armed with handguns. Each situation is unique. It's very difficult to armchair quarterback these types of things. Further an active shooter presents a very serious challenge. He's not threatening to shoot. He IS shooting. This is the significant difference between Aurora and the youtube robbery you linked to. when bullets are coming in your direction, it's a completely different situation than when you have the jump on someone.

So i don't disagree with the principle of carrying a gun. I'm just not convinced it would have helped in Aurora.

JD Miller's picture

Excellent points dmicah.  We really do not know what would've happened in Aurora if there had been others with guns.  That particular situation with the dark and tear gas would've made it very difficult to know who the good guys and who the bad guy were once the shooting started.  It is a reminder of the heavy responsibility that anyone who draws their gun in defense has.  At the same time, I wish that some off duty/retired police or military guys were there carrying to try to balance things out a bit.  My hope would be that most people who carry would not be too quick to use their guns and hopefully the most experienced would be the first to act.  dmicah makes a very good point that these things can be less than ideal situations.  At the same time there was a guy with a knife in a grocery store the other day that was stopped by a gun holder without a shot being fired.  I wish all the stories could end like that, but anyone who pulls a gun must be prepared to shoot and realize that someone else might be in the background.  As I said earlier, I am very much in favor of concealed carry, but we must realize the awesome responsibility that comes with it.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

JD Miller wrote:
We really do not know what would've happened in Aurora if there had been others with guns.
But we do know what happened when none of the people had guns. It's hard to imagine (though not impossible) the situation ending worse with armed patrons in the crowd.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

dmicah's picture

i've made my point, i think, but one last thing on the naivety of assuming an armed patron would have made it no worse. if you've never been involved with an active shooter, you don't have the experience to make informed comments. i'll give two examples of making it worse.

Imagine you trying to make a shot in this situation. Let's imagine you have a clean line of sight, perhaps you're on the front row. Just as you pull the trigger, somebody runs by, or falls into you as they dive, and you squeeze off two rounds into the back of someone else. Oops. You just killed the wrong person.

OR, let's imagine you pull off the miracle shot, and drop the shooter. In the chaos, you exit the theater to tell the police. But in your moment of adrenaline rush, you still have the gun in your hand. Oops, you just got shot by the police. I was once involved in a police shooting in the line of duty. The subject was down and two very good officers were still walking around in a daze with their guns out minutes later because of the fog of adrenaline. It does happen.

I just can't stress enough how difficult these situations are, The reality of tunnel vision and reduced hearing. Fine motor skills diminish. Judgment becomes impaired. It's a complex experience.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Then one could say a lesson learned is that if you are going to carry, you need to practice, practice, practice. Don't just buy a gun and take an 8 hour class and declare yourself an expert. I've been shooting various types of guns since I was 8 years old, so I'm very comfortable with firearms, (yes, I'm a redneck, get over it Bleah ) and I still am amazed at how much power is expelled by a teeny-weeny handgun. It ain't a camera- you can't just point and shoot. It is not easy to hit a stationary target, much less a moving one, in the dark, in a crowd. Hours of practice on a regular basis.

If I was in a similar situation, I imagine as a mother I would be more focused on protecting my kids than taking down a shooter.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Micah,

I acknowledge(d) the possibility of armed patrons making it worse, however, we also know that gunmen have attacked crowds in CO three times in the last 13 years. In two of those, many people were killed and no one was around with a gun to stop him. In the other instance, an armed patron was in the crowd and the death toll was significantly smaller.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

JD Miller's picture

There seems to be a consensus that the right to carry is a good idea, though some valid cautions have been raised.  With that in mind, does anyone have any recommendations for specific training programs, videos, or articles that should be read or viewed to help those that carry do so in a safer manner?  Further, do you understand the possible legal ramifications of discharging a gun in public even if you are authorized to legally carry it?  I strongly encourage people to carry, I just want them to think it through first.  I can see how easy it would be to just go out take the class, get the permit and start carrying simply as a reaction to what has happened recently.  I personally hope there are some guys who do think it through and make a commitment to safety and responsibility and to defending the defenseless.  My big questions is, "as a pastor, what impact would my use of a gun to stop a crime have on my ministry?"  I think that answer will be different depending on the region you live in and what the attitude toward guns is in that area, but I also believe it is a question that must prayerfully be contemplated. 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Permits are no longer required for conceal carry in AZ, but I am planning to take the local course through the police dept. anyway. Friends who have taken it here have found it very helpful, including in regards to the questions JD raises.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

pvawter's picture

One point that is often overlooked in these kinds of situations is the fact (and I think Kevin's article pointed this out) that any gun-free zone like a school, theater or church which prohibits carrying a firearm is a natural target for this kind of criminal. Whether a granny with a .357 magnum in her purse would have been able to put this guy down is irrelevant. He had no fear of taking fire, at least for a good while until police showed up, since the policies of the theater nearly guaranteed that he'd be the only one inside with a weapon.

Instead, if he'd had a reasonable suspicion that he might have faced an armed response from his targets, it might have caused him to alter his plan. As someone already said, he didn't shoot up the Aurora Police Department, he shot up a bunch of unarmed and unsuspecting citizens.

Whether it is the law or company policy which prevents a citizen from defending himself and those around him, it is unjust and ought to be ignored.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

pvawter wrote:
Whether it is the law or company policy which prevents a citizen from defending himself and those around him, it is unjust and ought to be ignored.
Are you really prepared to argue that gun laws should be ignored by Christians, or was this a little hyperbole?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

dmicah's picture

JD Miller wrote:

There seems to be a consensus that the right to carry is a good idea, though some valid cautions have been raised.  With that in mind, does anyone have any recommendations for specific training programs, videos, or articles that should be read or viewed to help those that carry do so in a safer manner?  Further, do you understand the possible legal ramifications of discharging a gun in public even if you are authorized to legally carry it?  I strongly encourage people to carry, I just want them to think it through first.  I can see how easy it would be to just go out take the class, get the permit and start carrying simply as a reaction to what has happened recently.  I personally hope there are some guys who do think it through and make a commitment to safety and responsibility and to defending the defenseless.  My big questions is, "as a pastor, what impact would my use of a gun to stop a crime have on my ministry?"  I think that answer will be different depending on the region you live in and what the attitude toward guns is in that area, but I also believe it is a question that must prayerfully be contemplated. 

JD,  You raise a series of good questions. There's a lot of training out there. The best training for civilians of course is costly. Almost every local gun range will offer courses or put you in touch with someone offering special courses on self-defense and the related laws. Three very simple things you can do: shoot thousands of rounds and be very familiar with the weapon you'll carry. That makes it an extension of your body and more second nature. Second, test yourself by doing calisthenics during your shooting session. For instance, do 20 jumping jacks & 20 pushups as fast as you can, then stand up and shoot 10-12 rounds for speed & accuracy.  The elevated heart rate and breathing will be similar to what can be experienced during a chaotic situation. Third, learn to shoot from covered positions and different body positions. Most people shoot at a range, or outdoors standing up and with no practice firing from behind objects. It's completely different to be kneeling, prone, or leaning out from a wall or other object. It's not super difficult, but like anything requires some practice.

Lastly as to your question about impact on ministry..that's a good one. If you use deadly force to stop a crime that results in death. You will be under investigation for homicide. It may be completely justifiable, but you'll still need costly legal protection. Even in your home, there are some basic rules that apply to self-defense in most states. You should also be aware of the stance of your local law enforcement and district attorney toward citizens and deadly force. Some DA's will seek to prosecute you to score political points. It's a very serious issue.

DavidO's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Are you really prepared to argue that gun laws should be ignored by Christians, or was this a little hyperbole?

In case you missed it the OP made the same (somewhat astonishing) assertion. 

When a government forbids the means of self-defense . . . then it is overstepping its licit authority. From a biblical point of view, it may and often should be safely disobeyed.

There are laws in the United States that prohibit the use of force to prevent a type of murder that has been legal since the early 1970's.  Can/should those laws also be safely disobeyed?

 

 

James S. Lowery's picture

The issue being discussed here is the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And this is an important discussion to be held.

But since this (as well as A Nick in Time) is ostensibly a "Christian" site, one that acknowledges the difference between a world-view focussed on temporal, earthly, physical, "self," matters, and a world-view that is Godly in the 2 Cor. 5:16-17 sense, focussed on the eternal (2 Cor. 4:17), heavenly (Phil 3:20), spiritual (2 Cor. 4:16), and “others” (I Cor. 13:13), I think it reasonable to expect to find a biblically-oriented discussion of the issues raised. I AM NOT DISPUTING Dr. Bauder’s essay or ANY of the comments already posted. I am NOT a pacifist, but I do recognize that to be equipped to “carry” would require more time and effort then my calling and mission would allow; and so I gladly place myself under the protection of those human beings to whom God has gifted, and delegated that authority and mission “to serve and protect.”

I submitted Dr. Bauder’s essay to a local police officer whose police-training (both physical, mental, and emotional) I respect, and whose Godly world-view I profoundly appreciate, and who is becoming more and more the focus of his life (i.e. I am seeing more and more of the Lord Jesus in him [Eph. 4:13-16]). His overwhelming response was that he agreed in principle with all but one of Dr. Bauder’s points. His thoughts on the application of his principles were very similar to what has already been posted.

His disagreement was with Dr. Bauder’s point six. He responds: “Disagree (as it is written). I Peter 2:13-17. The law does not forbid anyone from protecting the innocent (abortion laws aside), but it may forbid the carrying of some TOOLS that are HELPFUL in doing that "duty" or enforcing that "right." Note: I think these laws ("gun-free zones") are stupid and near-sighted, but that does not give me the right to break them. I can be in submission to the law (‘EVERY ordinance’, no wiggle room there) and God, as well as avoid being a victim, by simply applying some common sense. If I carry a firearm, and certain places don't allow me to do that (aka- "disarmed victim zones" as the author brilliantly points out), then don't go there. God has given me no license to disobey civil law simply so I can go take in a movie.”

He does understand that the use of “human ordinance” in I Peter 2 to mean “law” may be a matter of interpretation, but he believes it is at least a valid application of “anthropine ktisei”.

But his main objection was to the absence of any appeal to recognizable biblical principles in the argument; to the clear presentation of a Godly world-view. After all, we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and the basis of judgment will not be the U.S. Constitution.

What is the role of God’s sovereignty in such a case? Where’s the dividing line between our submission to ‘Man’ and ‘God’ in this case (Acts 4:19)? Upon what Word of God (and he’s not looking for proof-texts!) does the ‘right to bear arms’ for personal protection rest? What does it mean to our thinking that “...If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17)? Is Abraham Kuyper correct in stating: “No single piece of our mental world is to be sealed off from the rest; and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’ ”?

gpinto's picture

Perhaps we should look at the description of Goliath in 2Sam17:5-7 "....he had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was clothed with scale armor..he also had bronze shin guards on his legs...his shield carrier also walked before him." v40 "and with his (David's) sling in his hand, he approached the Philistine." Was David prepared?(v40-stick,stones,sling).Was he skilled in the use of his weapon?(v34-35). Did David's weapons or skill defeat Goliath? We all know the answer to that!

 

gpinto

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