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In a recent article, I shared a lot of disturbing information about the Uvalde response. We already knew that the police had dropped the ball, and badly, but seeing all of the information put together really revealed all of the failings. One of the biggest ones was that there was an opportunity to put the shooter down before he had entered the building, but according to an investigative report, a police officer paused to ask for permission to shoot instead of taking the shot because it was further away than the 100 yards the officer normally trained to shoot at.

Those of us here who have done even semi-serious shooting know that 100 yards is a generally easy shot for a rifle. In fact, 200 to 300 yards is still fairly easy for man-sized targets, even with iron sights, if you’re trained. But, this shot was only about 148 yards, and most officers these days have either a low-power variable optic (LPVO) that can “zoom in,” or a red-dot sight (RDS) that makes such hits relatively easy. Plus, at that distance, there’s really no need to worry about drop or windage, especially on a man-sized target.

Most TTAG readers would probably agree that this was a shot that should have been taken. One hundred and fifty yards isn’t very different from 100, and the situation certainly warranted taking the shot. Not only had the shooter already fired at some people who had tried to help him after he crashed into a ditch, but he also had been firing into windows at the school.

(Note: One reader replied to my original article, and cites a Texas House of Representatives committee report that says this opportunity to shoot didn’t happen. However, a review of the report shows that the officers in question were given a second chance to report on the incident and had changed their story, and that the committee bought it. I personally can’t seriously take that information as credible, because the police officers in question had some motivation to change their story to cover their asses. It’s the old “We investigated ourselves and found no wrongdoing!” nonsense unless there’s some serious evidence to back it and explain the changed story. Politicians also aren’t to be trusted by default, no matter what party they represent. Absent better information than this, I’m not going to change my assumptions. Regardless of whether it’s true, what I’m about to say about police training is still very valid.)

Why Police Should Be Training For 300+ Yards Instead of 100

Let’s start with what the military is doing. On the surface, it might be easy to assume that police have a very different mission and thus do not need to be skilled at longer range shots. But, the concept of “defensive range” is flawed, because it’s not always about self-defense. Third persons who might need defense could be at any distance. While police officers have been found by the Supreme Court to not have a duty to defend, we shouldn’t just abandon the idea entirely and lower our expectations of public servants.

Every service has different training and qualifications. The U.S. Marine Corp shoots at up to 500 meters (almost 550 yards) with a rifle that’s fundamentally the same gun as what most police officers have for a “patrol rifle,” and the military’s guns are often a crappier, cheaper copy. From what I could find, the Army goes out to 300 meters (330 yards). Plus, police officers are allowed to use LPVOs and RDSs, making it even easier than the iron sights soldiers and marines are expected to qual with.

So, asking police, who are often operating in urban and suburban environments, to maintain that level of marksmanship ability isn’t asking the impossible. If anything, it should be easier for them to meet that standard.

Another reason I call for a 300-yard qualifier is that you’re really not much beyond point blank range. A 16-inch AR-15 chambered in .223 and zeroed at 50 yards will be within 2 to 3 inches of target all the way from zero to almost 300 yards. This means that you don’t need to train every officer to factor in drop and do other “sniper” stuff. For shooting a man-sized target, you’re still talking about pointing and shooting here.

There’s Room For Relaxing This Some

All of this having been said, I do want to be reasonable. I do think there’s room for nuance and adaptation for different departments. In some rural places, it might be necessary to train police officers for even longer shots. In some urban areas, it might make more sense to go with a shorter carbine in .300 Blackout and go for a 200-yard qualification instead.

I also don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to allow something other than a standing shot for the longer shots in the qualification course. If I were to take such a shot and lives were depending on it, I’d certainly try to brace my rifle against a wall, kneel, prone out or lay over the hood of a car. There’s no reason that can’t be part of the qualification.

Police Should Do This On Their Own If Their Departments Don’t Require It

I know the current lore for police is that most rifle shots happen at under 50 yards, and that may be technically correct. But, do you want to be average, or exceptional? Even if a police department doesn’t require longer shots, individual police officers should expect it of themselves and train to achieve it. Even if that skill is never used, it will sharpen up those closer shots, so there’s nothing to lose learning to be a better marksman.

But, we know that longer shots are becoming more common, and do happen in the real world. Here’s an example of an officer who took care of the problem from 183 yards:

Is this likely something everyone will need? No. But, you’re better off having this skillset and not needing it than needing it and not having it.

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  1. They also need to learn how to pitch grenade fast balls.
    Are more Greyhounds being sold? They can cover a lot of ground really fast, you’d need a real sniper to pick one of them off.
    Long shots, fastball grenades and flamethrowers 👍

  2. In the Army, I qualified as Expert with the M16A1 (the old pencil-barrel version), consistently hitting targets at 300 meters (330 yards) with iron sights.
    But shooting man-sized targets at 330 yards in Army qualification is different, because you know that everything down-range is a target, and there’s absolutely zero chance of hitting an innocent person downrange during Army qualification.
    We didn’t have to worry about knowing what’s behind our target, or what’s to the left or right of our target, so if we missed (high, low, left, or right), or if the shot over-penetrates and goes through, there’s no harm done, zero chance for civilian casualties (“collateral damage”).

    In the real world, whether police can take the shot at distances over 100 yards all depends on the situation. If the bad guy is all alone in the parking lot firing at a school, that’s one thing, but if the bad guy is standing right next to (or behind) a child or other hostage, that’s another thing entirely. You might not have to account for drop at 150 yards, but wind drift can move a lightweight bullet like .223 /5.56 significantly.

    • That famous Israeli “shoot the hostage” mindset fits here. You take the risk, because you may not get another chance. Sucks to be in such a situation, but, reality is what it is.

    • You’re 100% right, of course. And anyone who doesn’t understand that shooting a live enemy combatant at 150 yards is a helluvalot harder than shooting a stationary silhouette at 300 doesn’t have any business judging anyone else’s performance. I understand the oft quoted quarter million rounds per terrorist killed in Iraq and Afghanistan includes all the rounds expended in training, but that doesn’t change the fact that most real soldiers in real combat miss an awful lot at ranges less than 150′. Would this officer have been able to take the shot if he’d had better training? I don’t know; I wasn’t there. What I do know is that if he didn’t feel confident taking the shot— even if turns out his lack of confidence was due entirely to his own negligence in practicing—then, at least in that moment, he was absolutely right to not take the shot.

      • I don’t know that it is true that the officer made the right call. Even if he missed a couple shots and those rounds flew off somewhere, the odds of hitting someone else are relatively low ( especially compared to the deaths caused by the killer as a result).

        When hunting, we want a clean humane kill shot. When shooting a mass killer, wounding shots are also helpful. A 5.56 (probably hollow point or soft point) round in the arm, leg, or gut probably would have taken all the fight out of that guy.

  3. I totally agree with Jennifer. Why train on a rifle to only 100m when it it is perfectly capable of hitting targets at 300m. It’s like giving an officer a car capable of doing 125 mph and governing it to 55 mph. Train and use as intended.

    • Ragnar, this is true, except 99.99999% of all police encounters with a long gun are at much less than 100 yds. SWAT teams have a scout-sniper that trains with a long gun (usually a .308 or a 6.5 Creedmoor). While such training might be ideal, very few ranges where police train have a line ever out to 200 yds.

      • I do believe that every state has someplace that they can install a 500 yard range. All it takes is a bulldozer to throw up a berm, make the berm 20 feet high if you like. For that matter, most states have some vacant land that can be turned into 1 mile ranges. Maybe Delaware and Rhode Island would have trouble with that, but they can always make deals with neighboring states for training.

        • The issue is often the safety template zone for the range accounting for uncontrolled ricochet.

          This can be 3-4 miles behind the berm. I had to learn safety template calculation as a part of my range officer course.

        • Paul, I don’t doubt it for a nanosecond. The problem is where. Most towns object to any mention of range construction. They yell about “safety”, etc. We are not just talking about state land, but local jurisdictions. Is it “possible”? Yes. but there are some very big obstacles. You should have heard the stink when my gun club constructed a no blue sky range with only one lane for 200 yds.

      • I’ve heard the average police sniper engagement distance is 70m. Understandable in an urban environment.

      • Walter, local police train at my private range all the time. They use our pistol ranges and the 200 yard range. The agencies can also use the 600 yard range, if they want to.

        • 70, that is the EXCEPTION, not the rule. Ranges around here have a MAXIMUM range of only 200 yds and that is only ONE range with only one lane for 200 yds. (And yes, the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office does their quals on that range but not out to 200 yds. It is not a question of “want” but availability. As encounters at over 70 yds are the RARE exception, not the rule, such practice is not necessary. Opinions like hers are like posterior orifices. Everyone has one?

          I reiterate, this article is written by an “author” with absolutely no experience in law enforcement.

    • At least advise the police that witn a 100m zero a .223 bullet will land 2″ low, so just aim center mass and you can engage to 250m.

      A 200m zero would be the better option with 2″ high at 100m.

  4. I see one problem the author hasn’t taken into account. Most cops are city dwellers. Those who aren’t, still spend a lot of time in their city. City people don’t routinely scan the scenery 100 yards away, and certainly not 500 yards. People – cops included – are mostly focused on things inside of a 50 yard perimeter. And, the phone or laptop are never more than a yard away.

    Yeah, cops, soldiers, and sailors should be qualified to make at least 300 yard shots. But people who never look much beyond the hood of their cars are never going to see a threat out there at 100, 300, or 500 yards.

    Those cops who are also military veterans probably look beyond 20 or 50 yards, and manage a much better situational awareness. Then again, most of those cops are almost certainly already qualified to make those 300 yard shots – or longer.

    It might help, marginally, to take away the cop’s cell phones, computers, and any other dashboard equipment that distracts them from looking down the road. Maybe. It still takes a certain attitude, or mindset, and some training, to stay aware of your surroundings further away than your voice carries.

  5. “I know the current lore for police is that most rifle shots happen at under 50 yards, and that may be technically correct. But, do you want to be average, or exceptional?”

    Many here (or most) would agree that the typical cop is not even “average” when measured against the general population. Certainly not compared to the typical (young) GI/Jarhead. Target identification, within the ROE, is more relevant in the police role that the ability to hit the target.

    Many here would agree that arming the “average” US cop the same as a Brit bobby, would make the US neighborhood/home safer. (see the story yesterday “WHEN COPS LARP: Police in Elyria, OH Toss Destructive Devices At Home, Injuring Baby”). IE: less Johnny Rambo/more “neighborhood policing”.

  6. Short range and long range proficiency training are not mutually exclusive. That includes handguns as well as rifles and shotguns. If you’re going to provide your police with a variety of weaponry, they need to be trained and practiced with the full capabilities of every weapon they have available to them. Basing your training on what the ‘statistics’ say, or on your budget, you are doing them and the general population a disservice and failing your obligations as a leader.

  7. I built my nephew police officer an AR just for such occassions. He’s now an EMT but still a reserve officer, eagle eyes can shoot the wings off a gnat.

  8. What might get really interesting is whether or not most police officers are able to determine the maximum allowable range with any consistency.

    For example: if we expect police to take rifle shots out to 300 yards (where bullet drop and wind drift are usually negligible), how often would they be able to determine whether an attacker is beyond that range where bullet drop and wind drift are becoming a serious liability (which might be 400 yards)? In other words can your average officer recognize the difference between an attacker at 300 yards (where they are good to shoot) versus 400 yards (where they may not be good to shoot) without using a laser range finder?

      • That is absolutely correct.

        Having said that, is that solution practical? I suspect it is not for two reasons. First, police would have to standardize on a particular optic and reticle which I doubt would ever happen. Second, police would have to train regularly to use the reticle to estimate distance and I doubt that would ever happen.

    • common, considering that 99.9999999% of police rifle engagements are substantially less than 70 yds, that is not really a consideration.

      • Walter E Beverly III,

        I was only bringing up that point because this article is a debate about equipping police for longer rifle shots–where the debate implies that “longer shots” means on the order of 200 to 300 yards.

        • Uncommon, the article is ludicrous on its face if you are a police officer ors have worked in Corrections. The author is speculating without any knowledge or experience of what she wrote.
          But unfortunately there are a LOT of people like that.

  9. Training on their days off??? No cops are not going to train on their days off.
    That is like work, and they do not want “to work” on their days off.
    And that doesn’t make any sense. The libertarians liberals and the left have been demanding that the police be defunded.

    And besides if you just leg@lize all drugs all the crime will go away. Then there will be no need for the police to be sent to some very expensive facility. Like Gunsite or Thunder Ranch.

      • That explains why the average cop is such a poor shot.

        Several years ago the Buckeye Firearms Association in the state of ohio. Discovered research that indicated that criminals have more professional firearms training than police officers.
        Also that the average civilian seeks out more professional training than your average police officer.

        People that don’t put in the study time in their off Duty hours. Will never accomplish what those who are willing, to study on their own time. To become better at what they’re supposed to do. Their job.

        So you’re telling me that those that want to get a promotion. They’re not studying the books, during they’re off duty hours. To prepare for the written exams???

        • A Great example of safety rule number 4. And the question is did the police follow safety rule number four??? Also how many bullets missed their target???

          Maybe these officers should be training on their own time. Perhaps one hour a month to start with?

          Burglary call leads to wild shootout in Ft Worth. Video 20 min long.

        • Chris, I agree with you. Most officers do not go out and shoot other than at annual or biannual qualification, which is unfortunate. Very few police officers are even proficient with a handgun let alone a patrol rifle. Master of either/both is not difficult but does require practice at least on a monthly basis. Any skill which is not practiced regularly deteriorates over time.

  10. I thought the Dickin drill had already been implemented?
    You have 15 seconds in order to get a minimum of 8 hits out of 10 shots. At a target 43 yards away. With only your handgun.

    • Chris, each department has its own training curriculum, usually of which the State mandates minimum standards.

      • I am sure somewhere out there. The training requirements still exist for officers to be able to hit a target. From 50 to 100 yards with their handgun. Or at least that is what the requirement used to be many, many years ago.

        Probably county deputies, forest rangers and highway patrol officers. They most likely would have been required, to be able to hit targets at a long distance away. With just their side arm.

        • Chris, actually most police and corrections officers qualification course out to only 25 yds for the handgun and out to 100 yds for a rifle.
          The only people who qualify at longer distances are LEO scout-snipers.

  11. In a situation like this, the officer should have tried to engage the semi-distant target, even if all he had was a fruckin’ pistol! Given that most school/mass shooters are generally cowards at heart, even a few bullets whizzing past him may have changed his mind – he might have just offed himself in the ditch.

    In IPSC competition, we fairly frequently were engaging Pepper Poppers or even 8″ disks at 50 yards or better. With handguns.

  12. “…a police officer paused to ask for permission to shoot instead of taking the shot because it was further away than the 100 yards the officer normally trained to shoot at.”

    This has nothing to do with training. It is department policy, if, in fact one feels the need for permission beyond some arbitrary distance. WTH? Did the officer have a rangefinder on him??

    Regardless of what some posters here claim, it’s doubtful that many LEOs really want to kill someone, and whenever possible, would like some sort of second opinion to affirm their non-reversible action. Having stated that, I’d like to think that I would go ahead and take the shot if it could save lives. Until presented with it- I’d never know, and hope not to face that situation at any range. YMMV.

  13. “One reader replied to my original article, and cites a Texas House of Representatives committee report that says this opportunity to shoot didn’t happen.”

    Good Lord – that reader was me, and that ain’t at all what I said. I said that the report stated that the man in black was a coach, not the murderer. I never said the opportunity to shoot didn’t happen. The opportunity DID happen and the officer didn’t shoot. Sgt. Coronado testified under oath that he heard the request, and he hesitated.

    “However, a review of the report shows that the officers in question were given a second chance to report on the incident and had changed their story, and that the committee bought it.”

    Again, no. The ALERRT report relied on info. from a Texas Ranger, who interviewed the officer asking to take the shot. That’s it. Not “officers.” DPS interviewed that same officer, the sergeant, the coach who was wearing black that day and two teachers who were in the area where this 2nd man in black was supposed to be – and then 3 of those 5 people testified again under oath to the House committee, subject to the penalty of perjury. So if you think the murderer was also really there at that moment, I’d like to know why these teachers who were also there didn’t know this and testified under oath that the coach in black was yelling at the kids to get inside because someone was shooting at them?

  14. The biggest problem we had with training when patrol rifles became a thing in the ’90s was real rifle ranges to train on. We trained on 50 yard pistol ranges because that’s the only ranges that would accommodate 25+ shooters. The 300 yard rifle range had less than half the firing points. Training time kicks in. Paid to stand around is an administrator’s nightmare. I suspect real estate is the main impediment to longer range LE carbine training today too.

  15. One benefit that I haven’t seen mentioned is the confidence a shooter develops when he or she can consistently hit head shots at 200 yards from multiple positions in varying light conditions. It makes hitting a head shot at closer distances easy and reduces liability for stray rounds.

    • People who claim they “can consistently hit head shots at 200 yards from multiple positions in varying light conditions” are either a fool or a liar (most likely both)!

      Sure, any decent shooter can learn to keep all their rounds inside a 6″ circle at 200 yards — and there are idiots who think that means they can make head shots reliably, but it isn’t true. Perhaps you have never noticed, but those pretty targets at the range DON’T MOVE. People move. In fact, people move almost constantly even when they think they are holding still.

      A head shot is a low probability shot that a serious professional only takes if it is absolutely essential.

      To be able to “consistently hit head shots” you need to hold all your rounds inside a 2″ circle, not 6″ that we commonly see on ranges.

      At 200 yards that requires a sub-MOA rifle/ammo combination, no wind, and perfect performance by the shooter.

  16. The author misses two important points. Those point might not change her conclusion, but certainly should change the thinking that led to her conclusion.

    1. The comparison of military and police rifle training that she uses to say police should be trained more like the military is completely bogus — and that error shows up in everything she says. For the military, any hit is a good hit — both on the range and in battle — but that is hardly ever true for police work. For the military, even a miss is generally ‘good enough’ — that’s the whole point of “suppressive fire”! In the military, there is NEVER a concern about what is behind or around the target – everything ‘down range’ is fair game. Any shot in the general direction of the enemy is fine (by the way, most military shooters today can’t hit a man size target beyond 250m even on a known distance rifle range, much less in the real world – and that’s with an optic). All the training objectives of military rifle training are completely different from what we should be expecting for police.

    2. Throughout the article she assumes that every police officer who happens to have access to a rifle is some sort of trained “sniper” — nothing could be further from the truth. More and more police departments are issuing (or allowing officers to buy) a “patrol carbine” but standard differ widely from one department to the next. Most require an officer to “qualify” with the rifle before using it on duty, but “qualification” is more about reducing liability than about skilled marksmanship. Even for the handful of police officers who do get serious rifle marksmanship training, the objectives of that training are totally different from the military because the mission of the police is totally different from the military.

    Her idea that every police officer who has access to a rifle should be trained SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER than the military just in case that the officer might encounter a literal once-in-a-lifetime situation for a shot beyond 100 yards is completely ridiculous.

    IF the shot opportunity that she describes occurred there is only one individual who knows what that actual situation was. I don’t know what was beyond the target, you don’t know what was beyond the target, and Jennifer Sensiba has absolutely no idea what was beyond that target. Neither do any of us know if the target was moving, or any other information about the target and the surroundings. Ms. Sensiba’s entire article is based on her assumption that if the officer had taken the shot, he would have instantly incapacitated the shooter, thus ending the threat. She never considers that the officer might have missed and put a round through a window and into the school. She never considers that even if the officer hit the shooter, 5.56 FMJ is hardly a great manstopper, especially from some random hit. Should the officer have taken the shot? Maybe, maybe not.

    There were plenty of mistakes made at Uvalde — if that shot opportunity existed, perhaps it was one of those mistakes.

    There were plenty of mistakes in the training and policies that led up to Uvalde, but Jennifer Sensiba has not proposed a viable solution to any of those training or policy mistakes. Her idea that every police officer with access to a rifle should be trained to achieve torso hits out to 300 yards and taught to take that kind of high-risk low-probability shot on his own initiative is complete nonsense.

    • And another failure at Uvalde was overlapping authorities. The school police chief being clearly incompetent and on a power trip.

  17. Normally, years back, I’d point out how many departments have oddball funding when it comes to guns/ammo/gear and that reform of this would go a long way towards fixing a lot of the issues with marksmanship.

    Given the past few years however, fuck that. Cops don’t need to be better at shooting until they can show a massive upgrade in judgement and respect for their bosses (the people, IOW).

    Until that happens, fuck them. Defund every department and give the money to the Sheriff’s Department where at least there’s a modicum of public oversight in the form of an election. Insulating police from responsibility and review by making their boss an appointment subject to the whims of someone who’s elected on a set schedule is no longer an option IMHO.

    Sheriff’s, generally though subject to local/state law, can be recalled if their department fucks up badly. Cops, OTOH, would generally require the mayor to be recalled over the issue at hand. The new mayor could then replace the Chief and then shit can roll downhill.

    Unacceptable at this point in time. Cops have shown that they are not to be trusted in the past four years and the only ones who could actually be trusted to reform the system from within were shown the door too.

    I’m not down with better training for what is obviously a Gestapo-in-the-making.

  18. Local two county combined sheriff’s dept trains ( or trained since they got banned from our range) for AR engagement out to 100yds. Dept protocol is no shots taken beyond that. Why, I have no idea but my personal observations of one of their rifle range relays was that 25% of the officers were zeroed and ready to engage from 0 to 100 yds. Another 25% were capable but not zeroed with dept issued weapons kept in trunk and the other 50% should just leave them in the trunk of their cruisers.

  19. Most law enforcement agencies have physical limits on their gun ranges as to distances that they can practice. This is especially so with agencies in urban and suburban areas. Also, not every officer can shoot a rifle accurately. Some officers are not comfortable shooting any long gun (rifle or shotgun). It is important that the department issue rifles only to those officers who express a desire to carry one and can demonstrate proficiency with it. It also takes regular practice, especially at longer ranges, to master the accuracy potential of a rifle. Maybe the officer in Uvalde was not comfortable taking a shot at that distance under those circumstances? Whether you are a professional or civilian who carries a gun, that’s where practice and proficiency with your equipment is critical.

    • Jim, I agree for the most part. The Uvalde matter is a different story. If he did not feel “comfortable” in taking that shot, he should have moves closer and pursued the perp.

  20. The total failure of the Uvalde police department had nothing to do with, not having a big enough budget.
    This is a morality problem. It was a leadership failure. The sergeants. The Lieutenants. The captain’s. The police chief. All of them failed.

    This is not a lack of $$$. I’m not surprised a liberal leftwing TTAG writer, thinks more government spending is this answer. To solving a problem of cowardice from government employees.

    This is morality problem. And that is something that liberals in general don’t understand.

  21. My 14 year old routinely hits 4″ steel plate at 100 yards with both 5.56 and .308 rifles and he is only an occasional recreational shooter.

    A 150 yard shot should have not been a problem for these guys.

  22. “Police Need To Train For Longer Rifle Shots”

    ambiguous title.

    Need to train for shots using longer rifles or train for longer range shots?


  23. Don’t know about the point blank range sighting in at 50 yards, but I used that sighting in method for all my rifles at 100 yards. Sight in at 2.5-3″ high at 100 yards, and your shot out to 300 yards will be in the lungs on a whitetail deer out to 300, roughly a 6-7″ circle. For my 30-30, sight in at 3″ high and that’s good for between 200-250. Just put the cross hairs barely below center height on the deer behind the shoulder and squeeze the trigger.

  24. Hitting the center of mass at 200 yards with an AR equipped with a scope, red dot or even just irons is not difficult at all. Every outdoor range I’ve ever had access to had a 200 yard rifle range. Even hitting a two inch target like some earlier poster was making out to be a big deal just isn’t that hard with a scoped rifle and target ammo the gun likes. I’ve shot small varmints that size at that distance in wind and heat caused mirage. If we give cops vehicles that can go 150 mph, they should be able to drive them that fast. If we give them long arms that can easily make 200 yard shots, they should be able to shoot them that far.

    • Retro, good point, except when the police train, they train to the most likely scenario. As 99.99999% of encounters requiring a patrol rifle are at MOST 70 yds, training out to 100 yds is sufficient. We train for the battle we are going to fight, not one that is very unlikely. Most police never fire their gun in the line of duty except at the range.

  25. Pathetic.

    The minimum range for CIVILIANS in the CIVILIAN Marksmanship Program is 200 yards – out to 600 yards.

    These police officers, who are civilians, can’t even meet the basic civilian marksman standards.

    • Busy, true. Most police officers do not go to the range very much except for qual. But as to the entire population, they are about as skilled.
      Police Departments need to up their standards for qualification.

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