A connection between marksmanship and morality?


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Ovid
January 8, 2006, 10:17 PM
Over the years I have developed the notion that there is a definite connection between marksmanship and morality. A good shot is nearly always a good man, and conversely the bad guys usually cannot shoot for sour owl jowls. This proposition cannot be proven, of course, but I think it has to do with the fact that the essence of good marksmanship is self-control, and it seems pretty clear that self-control is the foundation of good morals. Hurray for our side!

What do you guys think about this quote from Jeff Cooper?
It does seem that many badguys are poor shots, but I'm not sure if there is any direct correlation between being a good shot, and morality. Have most of the crack-shots that you have known been good guys?

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isp2605
January 8, 2006, 10:20 PM
I think Cooper gets paid by the word and he couldn't think of anything else to write.
In my career I've seen several truly bad, immoral people who were excellent shooters and weren't afraid to shoot.

bermbuster
January 8, 2006, 10:20 PM
What do you guys think about this quote from Jeff Cooper?
It does seem that many badguys are poor shots, but I'm not sure if there is any direct correlation between being a good shot, and morality. Have most of the crack-shots that you have known been good guys?

He's right. It cannot be proven.

Lots of BGs have self-control.

torpid
January 8, 2006, 10:38 PM
What's his opinion of Lee Harvey Oswald?

(Or did I just open a messy can of worms?)

.

tellner
January 8, 2006, 10:41 PM
Colonel Cooper is an icon of the firearms training world. We wouldn't be where we are today without him.

But he's wrong on this one unless you have a very peculiar definition of "morality" which includes Reinhard Heydrich and hitmen.

Wllm. Legrand
January 8, 2006, 11:05 PM
I have the greatest respect for Mr. Cooper.

We have even spoken together and corresponded, and I have been quoted personally in his "Gunsite Gossip", though you won't find it under the pseunonym used here.

The assertion is a generalization that should be true. Sounds like Hume's Naturalistic Fallacy, that which ought to be true, IS generally true. But it is a fallacy.

I used to think that "gun guys" were generally cognizant of the Constitution, American History, steered cleared of dogma, and when presented with factual evidence to the contrary, would revisit their long-held beliefs if they were found to be hooey.

Ain't so. It's a disappointment, but that's part of the human condition.

I'd swear by his "Art of the Rifle", however.

Molon Labe
January 8, 2006, 11:34 PM
I also have a lot of respect for Cooper. But unfortunately he is totally off base here. I have known people who were excellent shots, yet very untrustworthy...

isp2605
January 9, 2006, 12:23 AM
Here's an example of a guy I was personally familar with.
Think back to about 1986 in Oklahoma. A postal worker goes "postal" and shoots and kills, IIRC, 14 co-workers and wounds others. I doubt Cooper would consider such a person of high moral character, at least I'd hope he wouldn't. Was he a good shooter? You bet he was. He was a member of the Oklahoma National Guard pistol team and was a pretty decent shot. I seen him shoot and had shot in matches with him.
Or Charles Whitman? Didn't know him but he seemed to be a fair decent shot. Moral? Not by my standards.
Or the guy who killed one of our agents and seriously wounded another before being killed by a 3rd agent? He was a heck of a shot. Seen him shoot. He was a prison guard (Sgt actually) and had a gun shop with a fairly nice range and was a Class III dealer. Was he a moral person? He was trying to hire a hit man to kill his wife. Not the kind of morals I was raised with.
I could name a few more who I am personally familar with but the above are fairly well known examples. I think who ever the Col was quoting was trying to make a correlation to something and was reaching way WAY out there trying to make his point. That's one quip where the editors probably should have sent up the red flag. That didn't help the cause. I can see where the anti-gunners could use the Col's writing to say that the above listed, and how many more, were very good shots and even tho they were criminals the Col believes these criminals to be moral people.
The Col has written some good missives and he's usually entertaining. This one wasn't one of his better efforts.

dolanp
January 9, 2006, 12:42 AM
Does that mean assassins are good men?

MechAg94
January 9, 2006, 12:42 AM
When you look at the average street punk who is after the easy money and doesn't want to work for anything, he might have a point. However, there are obviously quite a few exceptions.

Also, condemning someone as immoral over one thing they did in their life may not always be accurate. It is probably true, but there are exceptions for everything.

TexasRifleman
January 9, 2006, 12:48 AM
What's his opinion of Lee Harvey Oswald?

(Or did I just open a messy can of worms?)

.

Or Charles Whitman

McCall911
January 9, 2006, 12:50 AM
A connection between marksmanship and morality?

I surely wouldn't want to bet my life on that foolish theory!

As someone said earlier, are hired assassins moral? Are hit men moral? No, they're murderers!

So, despite what some "gun guru" says, I'll keep up my morality and my shooting practice.

Werewolf
January 9, 2006, 01:01 AM
Cooper's whole argument re: marksmanship and morality is based on the assertion that good marksmanship is a function of self control. He seems to define self control as the ability to resist the temptation to do bad things. Bad things are a function of one's value system. One's behavior is defined by one's value system. Evil people have value systems and if they behave in accordance with that value system then they too have self control; thus Cooper's argument falls apart. Being evil does not automatically inflict a lack of self control on one and thus does not doom evil people to be poor marksmen.

On the other hand I would assert that one's morality has absolutely nothing to do with one's ability to shoot accurately.

Marksmanship is more a function of physical ability than anything else. The ability to shoot well is a combination of good hand/eye coordination, good visual accuity, good reflexes, physical conditioning, etc. It does take a certain amount of self control and a minimum of mental ability at a very micro level in time to be good but good marksmanship has little to do with the kind of self control that Cooper postulates is correlated with a good value system.

Cooper was a hell of a marine and he does knows guns and how to use them. I've read about half of what he's written and IMO he should stick to guns because the rest of his world view is at best not mainstream and at worst severely flawed.

Besides anyone who refers to himself as we when he writes and clearly means I (a correct - albeit archaic writing style) is not a little eccentric and is indicative of a somewhat warped view. ;)

Standing Wolf
January 9, 2006, 01:31 AM
Marksmanship is more a function of physical ability than anything else. The ability to shoot well is a combination of good hand/eye coordination, good visual accuity, good reflexes, physical conditioning, etc. It does take a certain amount of self control and a minimum of mental ability at a very micro level in time to be good but good marksmanship has little to do with the kind of self control that Cooper postulates is correlated with a good value system.

I believe real marksmanship—the abiding, passionate quest for accuracy—is primarily a mental rather than physical effort. I've experienced it these past few decades as almost a form of meditation, almost a pursuit of Zen-style insight, a means not so much of controlling oneself as transcending. I can't imagine much of that being accessible to someone whose heart is filled with evil.

To be sure, plenty of good people are poor shots and plenty of evil people are good shots, but I've found a quality of plain old-fashioned kindness among bullseye shooters that's definitely out of the ordinary.

WarMachine
January 9, 2006, 01:39 AM
Some of the most terrible people to ever walk this planet have been VERY intelligent individuals who exhibited a great deal of self-control.

Marksmanship has nothing to do with morality. Training, practice, understanding and natural ability are bigger factors IMO.

outofbattery
January 9, 2006, 01:41 AM
My favorite Cooperism is his assertion that bighorned sheep love peanutbutter sandwiches.

Everybody has a favorite older relative,be it your grandfather or an uncle who happens to tell great stories and give advice.You don't take every single word as gospel or every bit of advice they give do you?

losangeles
January 9, 2006, 02:30 AM
WTH! For all whatever his accomplishments, that's a pretty asinine thing to say.

Geez I know a lot of bad guys who are excellent shooters. I know a lot of good guys who can't shoot a hill of beans. Hell I know good guys who can't shoot period. OK, maybe that's just me and that's not representive but geez, come on!

losangeles
January 9, 2006, 02:32 AM
I bet Mahatma Gandhi was a bad shot. I bet Jesus couldn't shoot very well (if guns were available). I bet Hitler was a good shot, and so too Mussolini.

pax
January 9, 2006, 02:34 AM
I think GK Chesterton had a more realistic take on it.

pax

The word good has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man. --G. K. Chesterton

trickyasafox
January 9, 2006, 02:36 AM
thats only true in movies.

Jim March
January 9, 2006, 04:11 AM
Cooper has it partially right.

Ask any street cop how often they get into a brawl with a genuinely advanced martial artist. Not often. The principle is similar to advanced shooters.

This doesn't exclude cases where somebody with advanced skills (often military derived) "snaps".

But those are rare as hell. When you study who really commits murder in the US, it's mainly "street scum versus street scum" (regardless of race, although the murders aren't equally distributed among races). And these "street scum" can't shoot worth a damn in conventional terms. The thing that makes them so dangerous is a complete lack of inhibition on killing so at close range with a handgun they're dangerous as rattlers and considerably faster, lacking any hesitation.

I've had but one encounter with four of these loonies at once and I hope to God never again. I survived it only because they didn't have guns (two had hammers in case you're wondering and many of you know the tale).

We know about the names of various exceptions to this rule mainly because they ALL make national news because they're so weird.

Many of Cooper's students report back to him post-incident and he know doubt knows this "who commits murder" trend down pat.

tellner
January 9, 2006, 04:17 AM
Yes and no, in particular "no".

The other most common form of homicide in the US is domestic violence - most often after the victim moves out, just before the divorce or just before final custody arrangements are formalized. That's not just "street scum". That's people from every walk of life.

Also, the original quote didn't talk about "lower class and working class people involved in criminal enterprises". He talked about "morality". And it doesn't wash. Having a legitimate job doesn't make you moral. And plenty of terribly immoral people never kill anyone directly. Successful sociopaths are everywhere, particularly in boardrooms and Congress.

whm1974
January 9, 2006, 04:35 AM
I believe real marksmanship—the abiding, passionate quest for accuracy—is primarily a mental rather than physical effort. I've experienced it these past few decades as almost a form of meditation, almost a pursuit of Zen-style insight, a means not so much of controlling oneself as transcending. I can't imagine much of that being accessible to someone whose heart is filled with evil.

Every culture defines good and evil diffencly. What we see as evil, some other group of people will define as being good.

-Bill

IndianaDean
January 9, 2006, 07:06 AM
John Wesley Hardin was a fair marksman.

Jim March
January 9, 2006, 08:03 AM
Tellner, domestic violence murders are nowhere NEAR as common as "crook on crook" murders. The reason they appear to be more common is that each one gets major coverage.

Talk to any street cop in a big city.

The numbers are being hidden to a large degree because murders in the US are very strictly limited to certain demographics.

An example of how serious the disparity is:

In...damn, either 2002 or 2003, I can't recall offhand which, Vermont had six murders total. Washington DC had 262. Both have a population of about 650,000.

A high percentage of the Vermont murders were probably domestic violence. Possibly all of them. But they're a relative fraction of the number of DC murders, almost all of which were gang related or drug crime related.

Committed by people who will NOT visit a shooting range under any circumstances even if ranges exist locally - ranges that are full of cops and/or "wanna-be cops" such as the range workers or ex-cops who often own ranges or act as rangemasters.

It's that "goblin class" that Cooper is very correctly worried about the most. And he's absolutely correct that if you can fight them at range, they're absolutely pathetic. Hell, they're no good at hand to hand either, for the most part...but they're so damned quick to kill that any weapon means they're lethal as hell.

Good example:

Years ago when he was younger and stupider, my kid brother was invited to an Oakland (California) rap concert by a friend. Sure enough a local gang tried to start a riot - they went around the upper walkway in a pack and were randomly rolling people down the stairs. Extensive metal detectors ensured everybody was disarmed but things were going rodeo regardless. My brother is almost as big as me; the friend he was with was bigger. Along with a couple of security guards they formed a "battle line" at one of the choke-points at that walkway and held off over eight times their number of gangbangers long enough to let their section clear out behind them, then fought a running controlled retreat making sure to back each other up and not let anybody get singled out and stomped to death. It was an amazing thing really that they pulled it off but the opponents were pure vicious animals and cowards to boot and couldn't stand up to even a hastily assembled opposition fighting in a coordinated fashion.

That's the sort of dangerous street thug that commits most US murders. And they can't shoot any better than they can fight in a coordinated fashion.

They'll kill you in a heartbeat though, on a whim, no hesitation, no remorse.

You have to recognize that this level of snake exists before you have any change of standing up to them.

Lone_Gunman
January 9, 2006, 11:07 AM
Lon Horiuchi, the government-sponsored murderer of Randy Weaver's wife at Ruby Ridge, was a good shot. Just ask the baby she was holding in her arms when he shot her.

McCall911
January 9, 2006, 11:15 AM
I think GK Chesterton had a more realistic take on it.

pax

The word good has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man. --G. K. Chesterton

Ah, Chesterton! One of my favorite philosophers!

hso
January 9, 2006, 11:23 AM
Can't agree in the broadest sense.

Wllm. Legrand
January 9, 2006, 12:01 PM
Ah, Chesterton! One of my favorite philosophers!

Read my sig line.

Justin
January 9, 2006, 01:39 PM
There's a definite connection between marksmanship and self-discipline. Self-discipline and hard work are an inherent part of most moral systems, religious or secular, so it could be supposed that if one is raised with moral guidance that includes these things they would be instilled with the tools to become a good shot.

So, in that respect, I can kind of grok what Cooper is getting at, but I don't think it's really useful for anything other than idle conversation.

McCall911
January 9, 2006, 01:46 PM
7

So, in that respect, I can kind of grok what Cooper is getting at, but I don't think it's really useful for anything other than idle conversation.

Yeah, as my dad used to say just "shooting the bull" (like I've been doing.)

:D

CAS700850
January 9, 2006, 03:11 PM
I think that we must consider the context in which the Colonel makes this statement. The Colonel lives in a select location, accessible only to the select few. I believe they even refer to it as the Gunsight Family. Inside that circle are people who share not only his values concerning firearms and marksmanship, but also many if not all of his political views. However, out here in the world, we do not enjoy the benefit of select access.

So, in Cooper's world, the good shots also share his views, and are thus of high moral fiber in his opinion. Out here, shooting is a skill that can be developed and honed, no matter what morals (or lack thereof) the person has.

losangeles
January 11, 2006, 07:40 PM
Hey, if this theory can be scientifically proven, there are a lot of great real-world applications!

You know how there are jobs that require a person of high morals, a person of high integrity and trust?

Bring 'em to the shooting range and test 'em.

Like those Catholic priests. Bring them to the shooting range, damnit!

And while you're at it, I want a high-moral principal in my kids' school. Bring the candidates to the range.

There's always complaints about bad behaving pro athletes and how difficult it is to carefully interview for them. Hell, bring 'em to the range.

Bring politicians to the range!

f4t9r
January 11, 2006, 08:07 PM
i WOULD THINK THAT THERE IS SOME TRUTH TO THAT.
iM SURE ITS NOT ALWAYS THE CASE AND AGAIN NO WAY OF PROVING THIS.
i AM THINKING TRAINING FOR THE GOOD GUYS (POLICE , swat , mILITARY)
WOULD BE FAR SUPERIOR TO THE BAD GUY A HIGH % OF THE TIME

joab
January 11, 2006, 08:20 PM
Billy the Kid, Charles Whitman, Frank James, Bill Hickok, Verne Miller

All good and moral men?

I think the theory is easily disproven

Dr.Rob
January 11, 2006, 08:50 PM
"sour owl jowls"

Who knew Cooper could pull off alliteration?

And why does 'moral fiber' taste like lint and sawdust when you are a teenager?

I'd say good marksmanship begins with patience, and practice. You can be a saint or a sinner, the target won't care.

Dave R
January 11, 2006, 08:51 PM
I agree with Jim March's argument that Cooper's quote is true IN GENERAL.

Most of the shooters I assciate with are moral people with self-discipline. Most "bad guys" can't shoot.

Other's have correctly identified the exceptions: assassins, hardened criminals, etc. That's a very small percent of the "bad guys."

KriegHund
January 11, 2006, 08:52 PM
I disagree with the statement "A good shot is a good man".

Its like saying
"People whop can cook well are good people. People who cannot cook are terrible people" and so on with just about anything.

Confusing capability and character is ignorant.

losangeles
January 11, 2006, 09:04 PM
Most of the shooters I assciate with are moral people with self-discipline. Most "bad guys" can't shoot.

Other's have correctly identified the exceptions: assassins, hardened criminals, etc. That's a very small percent of the "bad guys."

If you want a fair representation of examples beyond people who you associate with, we need only to look at world history that is replete with examples of correlations between marksmanship and morality.

Beyond that statement above, I won't itemize because most of us here can probably come up with a examples in history where superior marksmanship has subjugated entire groups of helpless people (poor marksmanship) with devastating human tragedy. History shows us time and time again that the moral people don't always win whereas superior force (marksmanship, included) does.

Unless you believe that the superior marksmanship of a people (whoever that is) entitles you to superior morality over the inferiors, then history is full of people like you and this argument here is meaningless. We only need to go as far as US history to see that. For example, blacks were not great shots back in the day (and lagged in a lot of other things knowledgewise and technologically) and our Caucasian forefathers were much better shots but somehow I have a hard time making the proposed correlation. As one example.

ARperson
January 11, 2006, 09:33 PM
What's his opinion of Lee Harvey Oswald?

My first thoughts too.

Besides, if marksmanship were indicative o morality, murders by gunshot would be way down since obviously a bad guy couldn't be accurate enough to kill.;)

losangeles
January 11, 2006, 10:27 PM
In history, one of the greatest warrior people of all time was Genghis Khan's Mongols. I admire them for their superior strategy, field general ship, their superior technology (by way of the horse stirrup, which if you study it closely, made a huge difference) -- and their superior marksmanship (bow). They conquered an empire that stretched through much of Asia, Russia and half of Europe.

The Mongols would give an ultimatum to a city (with tens of thousands of people) to submit or die. Their reputation caused a lot of submissions without a fight. If the city did not submit, they would literally decimate that entire city to the ground. Everyone in it would be killed --- no exceptions. A former resident could go away on vacation and return a week later and see a flat land and some rubble where once his city stood.

The Mongols were a superior warrior people and superior marksmen. They were responsible for literally millions of lives (who were unfortunately, poor marksman) and were feared as the legendary "yellow horde" from the East.

Were they a moral people?

Barbara
January 11, 2006, 11:18 PM
If marksmanship is a sign of goodness, I'm going to hell for sure. :)

Griff
January 12, 2006, 11:11 PM
Not sure if I care what the gentleman's philosophical issues are, but I think the word should more directly be "Mortality." :)

tellner
January 13, 2006, 02:20 AM
The Mongols were a superior warrior people and superior marksmen. They were responsible for literally millions of lives (who were unfortunately, poor marksman) and were feared as the legendary "yellow horde" from the East.

Were they a moral people?

By their own lights and standards, yes. They certainly weren't amoral towards their people and allies.

Double Naught Spy
January 13, 2006, 03:35 AM
Over the years I have developed the notion that there is a definite connection between marksmanship and morality. A good shot is nearly always a good man, and conversely the bad guys usually cannot shoot for sour owl jowls. This proposition cannot be proven, of course, but I think it has to do with the fact that the essence of good marksmanship is self-control, and it seems pretty clear that self-control is the foundation of good morals. Hurray for our side!

As noted there is no actual connection between morality and shooting. However, Cooper apparently argued that self control is the foundation for good marksmanship and self control is the foundation for good morals, then good shooters will tend to have good morals.

There are a couple serious shortcomings with this. First is that there is no cause and effect with morals and marksmanship or vice versa. Second, I don't think that Cooper actually understood the the definition of morals relative to self control. Having good morals means having a sense of what is good and what is bad behavior in society and choosing to behave in accordance with that is good behavior. Third, the weak correlation judgment Cooper is making is based on essentially western society values and especially US values. Behavior traits we see in other societies that we feel are immoral should mean those folks should tend not to be good shooters. Of course, that does not fly. The problem is, what constitutes being moral will vary greatly between societies. It will also vary greatly within individuals of a given society.

If Cooper's idea was to work on the basis of self control, then we would have to argue that folks involved in all activities requiring self control would, by default, be morally good people. That would be crazy.

Within individuals, they may believe that what their are doing is moral when society doesn't agree. So if an individul is working within his own moral paradigm, then he must have self control to do that and hence would be a good shooter.

Take Jack Kevorkian. He was a skilled pathologist with his M.D. So you know he had to have self control, hence morals. Problem is, his morals did not our society even though he thought he was performing at a higher standard. He actually thought society immoral for not allowing suffering patients to put an end to their miseries through suicide. He saw society as torturing suffering people.

When it comes to self control being needed for marksmanship and morals, supposedly, then how do with classify those who have obvious, blatant self control issues but who are quite moral? There are fat smokers with solid morals about right and wrong. Aside from medical reasons for being fat, those that are fat or smoke don't seen to have self control. Can they shoot well? Of course.

There are highly trained cops who obviously have self control who do bad things like insurance fraud, evidence tampering, etc., but they can shoot well.

Jim March
January 13, 2006, 04:14 AM
First, I believe Mr. Cooper has seen more of the real world than 95% of the people on these forums. He's in his 80s for God's sake :).

Second...the people who have the discipline to learn some advanced skill are indeed less likely to be murderers, at a minimum. Again: ask your local big-city cop how many murderers have, say, college degrees. It's damn near unheard of and the exceptions are so exceptional ALL make the evening news at least in their local area. Most make the national news.

Again, that's what's skewing your perceptions.

Look. The anti-gunners get traction arguing that ANYBODY at any time can kill on a whim if given the opportunity. I am deeply shocked that in this thread, it appears that this lie has taken hold HERE, on THR.

It IS a lie. Study criminal patterns, guys. Go find out who is really doing the majority (VAST majority) of the killings. It is impossible to overstate the implications of this to the RKBA. Take the average no-criminal-record American, toss 'em a gun, they won't go commit murder with it. Take one that took the time to master some skill, ANY skill let alone shooting, the odds get even better they're not a murderer-to-be.

This is friggin' BASIC to the argument in favor of the RKBA, guys. Cooper gets it. Most here in this thread don't. I'm physically nauseated by the implications for the direction of our rights, if the enemy's propaganda has spread this far.

No_Brakes23
January 13, 2006, 04:43 AM
I respect Cooper, but this is so wrong.

I have known plenty of excellent shooters that were not good folks, as well as plenty of good folks that were, well not bad shots, but not great either.

You can't even extend his idea to say that gun people are good people, because I have met waaaaay too many "gun folks" that were colossal wastes of flesh.

Now if you are a firearms enthusiast and a good shot, you rate a little higher in my book, but that's just a small part of the total picture.

Jim March
January 13, 2006, 05:32 AM
Define "good" and "bad"?

If we're talking about legal gun owners/CCW folk, they might be annoying, their business ethics might suck, they might be lousy parents.

But No_Brakes, are you telling me you've known legal gun owners who were likely to murder?

What's your standard for calling somebody a "waste of flesh"?

geekWithA.45
January 13, 2006, 12:31 PM
I would say that there is probably not a strong correlation, and certainly no causation at all.

Assuming the bad guys are bad shots is also a really bad fighting premise.

I think the dynamic is akin to the martial arts. The training involves discipline, usually includes some sort of moral code, and a good teacher will strive to weed out the bad eggs. As a result, there might appear to be a light correllation, but I'd not trust it.

There's a a fair number of bad guys who know kung-fu, and gun-fu, too.

DunedinDragon
January 13, 2006, 01:09 PM
First, I believe Mr. Cooper has seen more of the real world than 95% of the people on these forums. He's in his 80s for God's sake :).

Second...the people who have the discipline to learn some advanced skill are indeed less likely to be murderers, at a minimum. Again: ask your local big-city cop how many murderers have, say, college degrees. It's damn near unheard of and the exceptions are so exceptional ALL make the evening news at least in their local area. Most make the national news.


The problem is that Mr. Cooper related being a good shot to morality by way of self-control. I personally see that logic as a bit purmuted as it's kind of a roundabout way of saying self-control leads you to being a better shot. That's something that tends to be more true than not. It's arguable whether there's a real correlation between morality and self-control...thereby explaining the prominance of the addage:

"Do as I say, not as I do"

Janitor
January 13, 2006, 01:36 PM
If marksmanship is a sign of goodness, I'm going to hell for sure. :)
Just the same thing I was thinking.

I must be even more evil than Chuck Manson!
-

middy
January 13, 2006, 02:33 PM
The premise could have been worded better, but I'm with Jeff Cooper and Jim March on this one. The majority of criminal murderers barely mastered tying their own shoes...

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