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It’s been a tough couple of weeks for LEOs at TTAG. We’ve had ongoing discussions about police officers and how they’re perceived by civvies in general and gun owners in particular. From our wildly unscientific sampling, it seems safe to say they’re viewed by most of the Armed Intelligentsia with suspicion at best. But a couple of recent shooting incidents go a long way toward illustrating how hard it can be when a peace officer’s faced with someone with a gun in a shoot/no shoot situation . . .

Example 1: Henry Lee of Seattle. Lee was a 77-year-old with dementia. And he also owned a firearm.

[Lee was] alarmed by a fire department aid call outside his home, messaged his medical alert service to say he suspected a prowler and has armed himself with a gun. When police arrived, he met them at the door with the gun and was killed by officers who [felt] threatened.

Lee’s family has said he had dementia and lived alone. But police had no medical information about Lee when they responded to the 911 call placed through his medical alert service.

Lee said he thought there was a prowler outside his home and had a gun, “and that if anyone tried to come into his home, he would kill them,” Metz said.

Did Lee’s family know the septuagenarian – with diminished capacity – owned a firearm? No way to know based on the media stories. But if they did, it might be hard dealing with the guilt they’d be feeling right now on top of the loss of a loved one.

Example 2: Delma Towler of Altavista, Virginia. Towler was awoken by her dog and dialed 911 to report a burglary. It was later determined that her purse and money were gone, so it’s likely someone had broken into her home.

Towler got her gun — which she had never fired — from her nightstand and fired in the air from her bedroom as a warning, Clark said. Bullet holes can be seen in the ceiling, she added.

From there, [her daughter] believes her mother tried to go two houses down to her sister, Margaret Davis.

On the way, Towler might have seen the burglar through her back door and fired again, Clark said. Shattered glass from the back door of the home lay in the yard Thursday.

She was shot and killed by Altavista police in her back yard.

Towler may not have been aware of the two police officers dispatched to her home, Clark continued, as her hearing aid and glasses were found in her home.

Media reports are notoriously inaccurate, incomplete and frequently sycophantic. So based on the linked articles, there’s no way to know the extent to which the cops in these incidents tried to dial the situations down before opening fire. So saying news reports can be unreliable is like saying a Vermonster can be fattening. But faced with someone pointing a gun at you or apparently shooting wildly, would you have reacted differently? Think you’d have done better?

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  1. “killed by officers who [felt] threatened.”

    This meme of “felt threatened” is getting old. I feel threatened by police officers everytime I see one. However, I don’t just start shooting.

    We need to eliminate the entire LEO proffession (the bottom of a deep ocean would be a good place to put them) and start over again with Peace Officers.

    • You might start shooting if you had a gun pointed at you. There are times it might even be found justified, look up Basil Parasiris. “Felt threatened” isn’t a blanket excuse, it has to be reasonable and justified by the circumstances. Usually by a clear lethal threat.

      I hope you’re just venting emotionally, and don’t actually think that drowning somewhere around 800,000 people is a good idea.

    • “We need to eliminate the entire LEO proffession (the bottom of a deep ocean would be a good place to put them) and start over again with Peace Officers.”

      Another bad idea, among the many bad descisions made in the article above.

      • Yea, better to let them continue their reign of terror and keep murdering poor old ladies. God forbid we actually treat the scumbag police like they treat us.

    • I feel threatened by police officers everytime I see one. However, I don’t just start shooting.

      That’s because as peasants, we’re held accountable by the law. Since cops server our almighty masters, they can do whatever they want without fear of repercussions.

    • I am very weary and critical of law enforcement officers. That said, I place blame squarely with the family members of the victims in these two cases. Both people needed custodians and neither victim should have been armed.

  2. Two tragedies, both avoidable. If your relatives have diminished mental capacities you have to take care of them and not leave them alone. Simple as that.
    The elderly woman was not just confused but untrained with a firearm. Training and education go a long way and despite some fears for civil liberties it is essential that anyone who buys a firearm learn how and when to use it.

    • It also sounds like she was incredibly irresponsible in the use of the firearm. Warning shot into your bedroom ceiling when you don’t even know if the burglar is still in the building, no worries. There’s a shadowy figure over there, that must be him, shoot! I don’t see anything about target recognition and acqusition. Glasses? Who needs ’em?!

      • “There’s a shadowy figure over there, that must be him, shoot! I don’t see anything about target recognition and acqusition. ”

        Are you talking about the cops or the woman?

  3. I hope more than just about anything else I can think of facing on the job that I never find myself in a situation like this. Even having to face a Mumbai style terrorist attack would be better, except for all the people they would hurt.

    There’s no way to make this look good. There’s nothing good about it. Sometimes, though, you are faced with a no-win scenario, and you have to make the terrible choice. Anyone here old enough to have been in Vietnam might have seen something similar to a story I was told by a veteran before I joined the Army, which he told while shaking and staring off into the distance as though he could see it happening again in front of him.

    He was on foot patrol with his platoon, and they went through a village they had been through dozens of times before. They used to hand out chocolate bars to the kids, who were happy to get them, and would come running up waving and smiling when the troops came by again. One day, a particularly charming little boy came running out to greet them, as he had many times before, but this time he had a satchel charge strapped to his chest, fuse smoking. He had no idea what he was doing, he just wanted a candy bar.

    The lieutenant shot him dead in the street with his pistol. He was already dead, there was no time to defuse the bomb. But now, every man who saw it happen and especially the lieutenant, has to live with that memory until the end of their days.

    Not everyone who points a gun at you is a criminal. That won’t make you any less dead. I don’t think there’s really a moral of the story here, or at least I don’t see one. But one thing’s for sure, if my parents get to the state where they might find themselves in a similar scenario, I will take steps first to see that they are cared for, no matter what it costs.

  4. This is just a whole bunch of bad decisions…not to kick dirt on these poor peoples graves but going around the neighborhood at night and shooting randomly in the dark isnt exactly the greatest idea.

      • Maybe they were colossal assholes when they still had mental capacity, and their families were glad to be rid of them. Or they didn’t raise their kids right so that they’d be cared for in their old age.

        Lots of background facts we don’t get from these news stories.

  5. In the case of the lady, shots are being fired and its dark. Bad case all the way around. If they find who stole her purse and broke into her house he should be charged with murder.

    As for the man with dementia I got totalled in an intersection by an 87 yo dementia victem who lived with his sister who had been awarded control of him because of his illness. She was taking a nap and he took her keys and went for a joyride in a Ford Ltd. He hit a total of 6 cars before the ford was too banged up to go further. The miracle is no one was killed.

    • If they find who stole her purse and broke into her house he should be charged with murder.

      You mean alongside the police who killed a harmless old lady, right?

      • Next time a harmless person is firing a gun in a residential neighberhood you feel free to jump in and stop the situation before it escalates. I said what I meant and don’t need one of the “skateboader mentalities” speaking for me.

        • Right, because god forbid they said “Police! Ma’am! Put the gun down!” There’s no reason to believe she was senile – it’s merely trigger happy cops getting their kicks in by murdering a defenseless old lady. People like you promoting this type of behavior puts the lives of every innocent person in danger.

    • More like reminders of what is at stake. But if you prefer to see it as
      Anti police stuff that is your choice.

    • I don’t think the article itself is necessarily anti-police, but it will invariably rile up the cop hating crowd in the comment section. Just look at the last paragraph of the first post. More will follow I’m sure.

  6. these tragic situations posed in the article display a clear need for cops to take a second and understand what they see, judging from the appearance of the elderly woman, hair color etc, i don’t think it would be thought to see that this is a pretty old lady, albeit one who was shooting randomly at her neighbor’s houses, but it sounds like she had the right intentions, although i don’t know how her neighbors must feel, i sure am glad no kids got killed, either by this poor old lady, or the cops (with flashlights, car headlights i might add) who felt that had to shoot her. how do you not know what and old lady looks like? prob wearing a nightgown, and most robber’s probably don’t look at those as their clothing of choice when breaking the law.

    alta vista , va seems like it is in the middle of nowhere, judging from the map i just searched, why are cops there so jumpy apparently?

    i think you can pretty much guarantee that nothing will happen to ANY of the cops involved in the end. they were just “serving the public” right? just like that cop at UC davis who got no charges brought against him, yet the taxpayers of CA have to foot the bill for the lawsuit brought on by the students who bore the brunt of his idiocy. but then i live in an area where cops pistol whip folks and then are surprised when their sidearm discharges “accidentally.”


      Are you talking about this case, where the officers involved are suspended from duty, one for lying, and the other for covering for him? The one who did the pistol whipping is facing criminal charges. Not sure if the other one is being charged.

      As for UC Davis, I assume you mean the pepper spray incident. Students intentionally violated campus policy to provoke a response. When the response included arresting people, the crowd linked arms, surrounded the officers, and chanted “If you let them go, we will let you leave.” In some places, this would provoke a lethal response. America isn’t one of them, not since Kent State. And hopefully never again.

      • yet it took almost a year for that to happen. i was alluding to the larger point of cop killings going unchecked, the brentwood situation was unresolved for a long time. but my local pd love to leave situations unresolved for long periods of time, while our awesome state attorney general lets idiots like this walk around armed, my own 2a rights are actively subverted by our state government.–79509.html

        • Speaking of which, it was settled yesterday for a cool $1m. I think the involved officer was fired as well, but I have never heard of any criminal charges being considered.

      • And for every case where an officer is not only charged, but convicted and sentenced to a term comparable to what any other citizen would receive for the same crime, there’s a whole lot of others.

        There’s always another nonsensical no-knock on the wrong address for some small time drug seller that ends up getting a homeowner killed and nothing ever happens to anyone at the department. Ooops. Grandpas dead. No apologies and certainly no charges.

        Or at the very least get your house trashed and your door kicked in while you are treated like a criminal. If you’re incredibly lucky, you don’t spend days in jail even after they find nothing. Good luck getting your job back!

        There’s always another dog on leash shot in the wrong yard. The officer is found to have followed procedure (shoot anything you want, we’ll back you), case closed.

        There’s always stone alcoholic cop who’s been getting badged out for 15 years that finally kills a carload of kids.

        There’s always some cop shooting a cuffed prisoner who is face down or in the back of a patrol car – and maybe getting a few years and some probation.

        There’s always another Highway Patrolman going 110 while talking on his personal cell, and using his rig computer, going to an accident he wasn’t dispatched to, in semi-busy traffic, with no lights, no siren, who crosses over an interstate and head-ons two teenage girls killing them. He got 30 months probation…Oh yeah, he’ll likely get his driver’s license back.

        There ARE hard shoot/no shoots. No doubt about it, and one really does have to cut some slack for the incredibly rare cop who has this incredibly rare incident in their career.

        Unfortunately when the public sees the general level of police misconduct, the small percentage that is even “caught”, and what few and weak penalties they do receive if any, it gets harder to cut police any slack on those rare occasions that they really should.

        • Remember how one of Clinton’s big things was to get funding for an additional 100,000 local cops during the 1990s? And remember how the economy was pretty robust at the time with low unemployment.

          Where do you think all those cops came from – they weren’t magically brought into existence. Standards were lowered and average experience level dropped. Combine that with the retirement of baby boomer generation cops, and you have a huge drop in quality and experience.

          We saw this up in Canada too, except instead of killing innocent citizens, it tended to lead to more cops getting killed.

          And of course, that’s how the RCMP got C-8 (M4) carbines.

      • “…the crowd linked arms, surrounded the officers, and chanted ‘If you let them go, we will let you leave.'”
        Oh my fvcking Dog! The officers involved must have been terrified! Come on. You’re not really going to play the appologist on this one, are you?

    • Like I said earlier, I am extremely critical of law enforcement officers. That said (again), I do not fault the police in these examples. Even if the police officers knew the little old lady personally and knew that she was a nice lady, it doesn’t change the fact that she was randomly blasting in any directions. The neighbors as well as the responding officers were in immediate, mortal danger. I don’t fault them for shooting.

  7. You described 2 tough situations I would never want to be in. I feel sad for the families of the old folks that were killed, and I feel sad for the police that had to make a quick decision, is this person dangerous enough that I have to shoot them? Definitely a no win situation. If the cops hold their fire, and the old lady continues to blast away in the neighborhood and kills someone, anyone, is that the proper solution? Same with an old man with dementia answering his door with a gun. Is shooting him saving other innocent lives in the neighborhood? Too tough to call for me based on the minimal info I have, because I wasn’t there to see what happened.

  8. I’ve OC’d for three years in a large metro area in NM and all the police have been very professional 100% without any harrassment,(knock on wood), but I also keep a pair of audio\video safety glasses I use as regular sun glasses just in case I get into a self- defense situation or I meet the odd cop who at heart is a JBT.
    As Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify”.

    • I’ve OC’d for three years in a large metro area in NM and all the police have been very professional 100% without any harrassment

      Does that mean you’ve been stoped and questioned by them? If so, that in itself I would consider to be harrassment.

      • No Matt, all that would happen is that they would see me and my gun, we would nod at each other and we would go on our way; the only comment made by one cop in three years is to ask me what I was carrying and then he said how he supports the second amendment.

        • to give a little more detail, the cop was driving by looking for a parking spot at a restaurant, he didn’t get out of the car and he was friendly and courteous in his demeanor.

        • its nice to hear you have cops that support OC where you live, now if only we could import some of them to chicago.

  9. …there’s no way to know the extent to which the cops in these incidents tried to dial the situations down before opening fire.

    There isn’t? While I’ll grant you, objective reporting these days is something of an oxymoron, I must have missed the part where “officers warned the armed individual to drop their firearm, and when they did not, opened fire”. Instead, we get “When police arrived, he met them at the door with the gun and was killed by officers who [felt] threatened.” and “gunned down like she was an animal or a criminal”.

    Given the ever increasing number of such shoot first encounters, I’m not exactly inclined to give the cops in these cases the benefit of the doubt.

    The question posed is rather loaded as well. What would I do if someone pointed a gun at me? Well, it depends. If it were some old man whose door I was at, I’d probably find some cover and draw my weapon, and then assess the situation. If it were some gang banger rolling past me with a sideways Glock, bang until click.

    Someone “apparently shooting wildly”? Kind of depends whether they were shooting at me or not, which is generally pretty easy to ascertain. If not, find cover and suggest they stop before I start. If so, bang until click.

    These are the sorts of situations cops are supposed to be trained to handle, and yet, with alarming frequency, they resort to lethal force. That’s a problem that needs fixing, before the armed populous figures that if a cop sees them with a firearm, they’re probably going to get killed.

    • The problem is the current training metric gets more and more paramilitary every year. Except there is actual discipline for misconduct in the military. What these rookies get shoved down their throats is that everything is a potential threat and that the only thing that matters is officer safety.

      Those they are to ‘serve and protect’ come second, and the courts have ruled that they aren’t required to protect us.

      You can hear this in every public statement made after an OIS. Many of the rank-n-file Sgts and LTs are even quite militant about it “nothing matters but the safety of my men!”. Usually the upper brass is a bit more measured, but after 9-11, the PR machine went into high gear so if you so much as criticize a cop or fireman, it’s spun-out that you’re an Al-Qaeda operative.

      Bottom line, these kids have been trained this way, especially in the last 10 years. It’s only going to get much worse and much more dangerous for non-cops.

  10. Hey, the old broad made a furtive movement. I felt threatened even worse than when that double amputee guy pulled a pen on me from his wheelchair. Trust me, I’m a cop.

    Yeah. A Keystone Cop (look it up).

    If they weren’t so damn dangerous, I might feel sorry for them.

  11. “a clear need for cops to take a second and understand what they see…”

    If someone points a gun at you and you take a second to analyze the situation, you’ll probably never have a gun pointed at you again. For eternity.

    • Yeah, but point a gun at a cop and you will be shot. With the current doctrine of fire until empty and reload, you will probably be dead. Where did I see just the other day, old couple, someone banging on the door in the middle of the night, Momma says, “Dad, get yo gun.” He puts a shot through the front door with his sawed off shotgun, as he and the wife are sure it is the local gangbangers coming to rob them. Police burst in, kill the old man, throw the old woman to the ground and handcuff her, and then trash the place looking for narcotics. Unfortunately, bad intel–the BGs lived next door.

  12. These incidents highlight the duty of LEOs, peace officers, or whatever you call them to respond. For their sakes, I hope they didn’t royally screw up. Clearly these losses are tragic. Mentally ill people are dangerous, and people with dementia are dangerous. If an old man can run over multiple people because he got the gas confused for the brake pedal, so also can an old lady or panicked homeowner with a gun be a lethal threat. No one wants to shoot the elderly or the mentally ill, but they can and do occasionally pose a threat.

    Every shooting should be thoroughly an impartially reviewed from the shooter’s perspective. Your threat could be from a syringe, a knife, a car, or a firearm in the hands of someone who has the clear and present ability to use it. The person holding that gun my very well be in a diminished state of mental well being and / or sobriety. They may also be old, young, or of a different race or culture. Sometimes doing the right thing looks bad in a messed up situation. If you can’t handle that, keep your guns in your safe, sell them to someone else, or punch pretty little holes in paper targets. Self defense isn’t your thing if you lack the ability to use force in an unexpected situation.

    If the shooting is clearly not justified, and constitutes a misuse of police power, than it should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Calling for guilt before the facts are known demonstrates little except bias and prejudice – the same things that you are blasting others for. If you think all police are idiots, then you are likely a prisoner of your own bias. Your thought process will likely prevent you from having or seeing any police action as positive. Either that, or you live in NY or Chicago, and you are a prisoner of the liberal machine. Those are places no longer fit to visit.

    If we only responded to pretty, easily solved incidents, things would look a whole lot nicer. That clearly isn’t the case. Be that as it may, if I didn’t support freedom and the 2A, I wouldn’t be wasting my time here. If I wanted to be better liked, I would have been a firefighter. Oh, we’ll, at least my dog appreciates me.

    • Calling for guilt before the facts are known demonstrates little except bias and prejudice

      Sort of like civil asset forfeiture?

      Either that, or you live in NY or Chicago, and you are a prisoner of the liberal machine. Those are places no longer fit to visit.

      Aren’t you a California LEO?

      Be that as it may, if I didn’t support freedom and the 2A, I wouldn’t be wasting my time here.

      So if you ran across someone OCing, would you arrest them and grab their gun? What about someone transporting a AR15 with a pistol grip, or a shoulder thing that goes up?

  13. Remember that the police are enforcing the laws that we the people have made. So get off their case. Half of you don’t know what you would do in the same situation, besides crap yourselves Granted there are bad cops. But most are good honest hard working people doing a thankless job. Look at the cop shows. Most of the people that have run ins with the police, usually provoke it. lets see you get out there in the middle of a cold snowy night and remove the scum from the streets.

  14. Lots of facts that never got reported. Since we don’t know the critical details of these situations, I’m willing to give the LEOs “the benefit of the doubt”. I think you should too.

    • I generally do give cops the benefit of the doubt- having one in the family has given me some perspective on these things- but it is trivial to find examples of truly egregious behavior resulting in no consequences.

      The public is generally willing to accept mistakes, so long as the people who screw up face appropriate consequences for the screwup. That is not happening, and it undermines the relationship between the public and the police.

  15. The “Shoot-first, Ask-questions later” LEO mentality is getting old. Yes there are plenty of good cops, but strewn among them are the bad apples that have no business owning a gun. I have mostly respect for our boys in blue, but those who make these fatal mistakes need to be punished accordingly.

    And to those who commented that elderly should not be left alone by family, can you honestly say you have all the time in the world to watch and care for your own elderly relatives? (and I mean all of them, In-laws included) As much as we love them, it is not always possible. Even worse is that some elderly have no one to take care of them but themselves.

    • … can you honestly say you have all the time in the world to watch and care for your own elderly relatives?

      When an elderly relative needs a custodian, you either make time or pay someone else to be their custodian. Where there is a will, there is a way.

      If you have a meager income, then have your elderly parents live with you. If all family members absolutely have to work to literally avoid starvation, then use your elderly parents’ income (they will at least have some amount of social security income per month) to pay for a daytime elder sitter while you are away working. And if their social security income isn’t enough to pay for an elder sitter for the entire month, then use the social security income to pay for bars over the windows and reinforced steel doors with extra, heavy-duty locks. After paying for those, use all of their income to pay for an elder sitter for as much of the month as possible so that they are alone as little as possible. At least they will be safe from criminals when they are alone.

      Is that a little inconvenient? Sure. Is it the end of the world? No.

  16. All this recent discussion and bombast about LEO’s here in TTAG has made me seriously start to wonder just what would happen if all Citizen Gun Owners were allowed unrestricted carry. It surely looks like a significant number of LEO’s are either primarily concerned with their own safety, or incapable of even moderately accurate threat assessment, and a small percentage are Jack Wagons who don’t care or are just hostile to everyone who is not a peer LEO because all “non-cops” are Criminals “en potentia”.

    As for the Citizen Gun Owners who are not LEO’s, it appears many are just looking to be offended by anyone who is an LEO and a significant number regard all LEO’s as hostile Redcoats looking for any excuse to abuse and murder Citizens (and their dogs) at the command of their Governing Masters.

    With this kind of pre-existing polarization and antagonism between Law Enforcement and Citizens, the possibility of unrestricted carry by all Citizens cannot look like anything but a bloodbath in the making, especially to anyone undecided about their Support for 2A who is reading these posts trying to decide what their 2A position will be. If you all can make a long-time supporter of 2A, namely me, start to question the wisdom of national unrestricted carry, you are probably driving the uncommitted straight into the arms of the Brady Bunch and their Komrades.

    I will neither blanket condemn, nor blanket support Law Enforcement because despite whatever “coulda’, woulda’, shoulda’ ” arguments you can devise for any given situation, no blanket judgment covers all the possibilities and circumstances of any given event, nor accurately characterizes LEO’s as a group.
    The hard fact is that Law Enforcement is a part of our Civil and Social constructs and is not going away, nor can it ever be refashioned to suit everyone’s ideals, preferences and sensibilities. Mr. Rogers is NOT running the Law Enforcement Show.

    The discussions generated since Robert Farago’s “House Keeping: Is TTAG Anti-Cop?” have failed to produce a conclusive argument for either Citizen’s or LEO’s stated point of view.
    The former have produced a lot of specious accusations, and broad speculations colored with unsubstantiated reports of personal experiences.
    The latter have offered a lot of complaining about how misunderstood and under-appreciated LEO’s are, while not seriously addressing valid questions about cop-to-cop cover-ups.
    Neither side can claim anything but to have made a better case for finding their point of view unconvincing, disingenuous and intellectually poorly conceived, than at all persuasive.

    These “discussions” are making the catch phrase “Armed Intelligentsia” look more like an oxymoron than anything else. The low quality invective being hurled at Law Enforcement is more likely to hurt the cause of RKBA by scaring-off the uncommitted and giving the gun control crowd “quotables” they can twist to support their point of view.

    I am sorry for the demise of the two Citizens reported in this article. A lot of bad circumstances at play in both cases raises a doubt in my mind about unrestricted carry turning-out to be more problematic than providential. Nonetheless, I still support unrestricted carry as an inherent Right of Human Freedom and a protected Constitutional Right. If a few have to die so that the majority can be free…so be it…some evils create their own necessity.

    • Indeed DerryM. I’ll go further.

      Those refering to themselves by the term Armed Intelligentsia shows the same type of contempt for others that they so freely accuse others of. In two words, they declare themselves morally superior to all others (on this board, the others runs the gamut from law enforcement, military, to courts, and essentially all branches of government, and agencies therefrom.)

      Couple this with often overt threats of violence (“my guns are here for me to take action if government if you become oppressive”) and with the rhetoric along the lines of “my government doesn’t respect my rights, so I don’t recognize your authority over me”, and then you realize why cops handle constitutional extremists with the same caution you might handle someone else’s guard dog (even if your intentions are good, you might still get bit.)

  17. DerryM, as a TTAG reader and long time cop, I must say I agree with every single word you wrote. It was spot on.

    As for the controversy itself, that’s all Farago generated in order to produce hits to the site. If everyone agreed on everything, this site wouldn’t last long. It’s just business.

    • Yep, I agree. You have a good points that the controversy is just business and the diversity of points of view expressed keeps the Site interesting and lively.
      Thanks for your support.

  18. According to what some of you write, most police roll calls must have that moment when the Shift Commander says…..”Hmmm, Police Involved shootings are down and we need to get on board. Johnson, you and Smith are on the button tonight. Go out there and get me a body, preferably a person with no record and at least 65 years old. If you can’t do that get a soon to be college graduate from a third world country who is here legally and has never taken a dime of assistance ad is sending money home to care for his parents” Are there mistakes made? of course they are. Do you want all the Police Officers in the country to just retire/quit? what do you thing will happen if they do?

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