Walker Anderson (courtesy Sara Forgues)
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Despite the best efforts of the Biden Administration and the weaponized regulatory apparatus that is the ATF, it’s still legal for Americans to build their own firearms in most of the United States. Since a now obscure California politician coined the goosebump-inducing moniker “ghost gun” almost a decade ago, the Gun Control Industry™ latched onto it and the media have compliantly echoed the term ever since. All the better to scare the bejeezus out of low-information types and drive home the immediacy of the dire threat that home-made firearms pose to a peaceful society.

While the Gun Control Act of 1968 mandated that anyone “engaged in the business” of making firearms had to get a Federal Firearms License and serialize the guns they produce, nothing in the law prevents an individual from making guns for their own use. Millions of Americans make what the ATF calls privately made firearms or PMFs every year.

As a result of the ongoing demonization campaign against home-made firearms, a number of the usual suspect states have passed laws mandating that people who build their own guns serialize and register them, and undergo a background check. Most states, however, still recognize the right to make your own guns without any involvement by government functionaries.

One of the many states that still “allows” its residents to make their own firearms is Minnesota. That’s why the prosecution of Walker Anderson for the non-crime of possessing two guns he built himself is so baffling.

Anderson is a 22-year-old auto mechanic and student who lives in Becker, Minnesota, northwest of Minneapolis in Sherburne County. In May of 2022, he and a friend were shooting on some private property near the town of Santiago. A nearby property owner called the local Sheriff’s department about the noise and a couple of deputies rolled up to check it out.

The deputies quickly determined that Anderson and his friend were well within the law to be shooting in the rural area and began chatting with the two. Then one of the deputies asked to see the guns they were shooting.

Anderson’s mother, Sara Forgues, describes her son as a “nerd-level rule-follower.” That’s why before he built the guns, not only did he research Minnesota law himself, he asked a local FFL to make sure there was nothing in Minnesota law prohibiting him from building his own guns. He then bought one 80% lower online and a second one from a local gun store (no background check required) to build the 7.5-inch AR pistol and 20-inch AR10 rifle he was shooting that day.

Being a mechanic, building the two guns was a fun project and it was legal for him to do so. That’s why Anderson thought nothing of letting the deputies look at his firearms.

Like virtually every state, Minnesota has plenty of vague and poorly-written laws on its books. One of them is Minnesota Statute 609.667, entitled FIREARMS; REMOVAL OR ALTERATION OF SERIAL NUMBER.

The law was obviously intended to criminalize obliterating the serial number of a commercially manufactured firearm as so many criminals routinely do. Here’s the entire language of the law . . .

Whoever commits any of the following acts may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $10,000, or both:

(1) obliterates, removes, changes, or alters the serial number or other identification of a firearm;

(2) receives or possesses a firearm, the serial number or other identification of which has been obliterated, removed, changed, or altered; or

(3) receives or possesses a firearm that is not identified by a serial number.

As used in this section, “serial number or other identification” means the serial number and other information required under United States Code, title 26, section 5842, for the identification of firearms.

Item (3) above is the one that has resulted Walker Anderson facing two felony charges. In the context of the law, it’s clearly intended to prohibit the possession of a commercially manufactured gun with a serial number that’s been removed. That, however, isn’t how the deputies or Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott have chosen to interpret the law. Brott charged Anderson with two felony counts of violating 609.667.

That was a surprise to Anderson and his family, not only because Anderson’s father volunteered to work for Brott’s election effort, but also because Brott has campaigned and portrays himself as a staunch gun rights supporter. He sent this letter out to county residents when the Minnesota legislature was considering a range of new gun control bills.

To learn more about Minnesota law, TTAG talked to Dan Repka, an attorney who handles a lot of criminal defense work in Minnesota including many firearms-related cases. He’s one of US LawShield’s program attorneys in the state. Repka confirmed that the Gopher State has no prohibition against home-made firearms on the books and no requirement to serialize or register them. He was baffled to hear the case has gotten this far.

Walker Anderson
Minnesota Judicial Branch

Other similar cases (the one below from Hennepin County) that were charged as a result of the same kind of mis-reading of the Minnesota statute have been dismissed.

 

Never mind the fact that in a state like Minnesota, with hundreds of thousands of hunters, there has to be thousands of people who still own pre-68 guns they bought or inherited that aren’t serialized. Under Sherburne County’s reading of the law, they’re all felons.

We talked to Rob Doar, Senior Vice President-Government Affairs for the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus about the case. He said . . .

This prosecution is a travesty. It’s a bad reading of legislation that was clearly intended to cover NFA-regulated arms that Mr. Anderson did not possess. This case should have never been prosecuted and should be promptly dismissed. 

The Sherburne County Attorney who’s prosecuting Anderson, however, has refused to back down. A plea deal that was offered — Anderson has no prior criminal record — required that he plead guilty to a felony charge to get misdemeanor-level sentencing, something Anderson isn’t willing to do for obvious reasons. As a result, he’s set for a jury trial September 5.

This has obviously been a stressful and costly ordeal for Anderson and his family. They’ve set up a GiveSendGo page HERE to help them cover the mounting legal bills as they defend against charges that should never have been brought.

Gun owners throughout the state should be keeping an eye on this case. If the trial goes against Anderson, it could affect all of those who either own pre-68 unserialized guns or those who have built their own firearms under the perfectly reasonable assumption that it is perfectly legal.

We’ll stay in touch with Anderson’s family as the trial nears. Stay tuned.

 

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68 COMMENTS

  1. Hopefully the local gun rights orgs are up for taking on a case as I cannot imagine this would be any cheaper than what we are seeing over here.

    • Dan/TTAG…please. This kind of ^^garbage^^ keeps getting through. Your site is being increasingly infected with this line of spam.

      • All they have to do is flag that blogspot crap, but they would rather tie up your stuff for uttering the word Soshullist… At least they have mostly intelligible script this time…

      • We get literally dozens of those every single day. Sometimes 3 digits. The filters catch most of them, but they’re sneaky bastards and find ways to work around them. We play a constant game of spam whack-a-mole trying to keep them off the site. We kill ’em when we see ’em.

        • Dan,
          While we get sent to moderation hell for daring to use the term “socialist”. Either get a better moderation system, or AT LEAST stop trying to defend the idiot, subjective bulls**t you have.

          Your moderation system sucks; deal with it.

        • RE: (3) receives or possesses a firearm that is not identified by a serial number.

          Since a Serialized Stripped Receiver is by law a “Firearm” the non serialized 80 percents the 22 year old mechanic received and/or had in his possession were never “Firearms” before or after completion.

    • Tapped out for the moment but saving it for later and sending it around my group. We had more than a few IL donors during Bruen.

  2. “The deputies quickly determined that Anderson and his friend were well within the law to be shooting in the rural area and began chatting with the two. Then one of the deputies asked to see the guns they were shooting.”

    Another naïve red-neck hayseed who still trusts the government and its agents.

    — KNOCK KNOCK —

    For those in the back ….

    DON’T TALK TO THE COPS! FOR ANY REASON AND UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!

    • All of you, do three things right now.

      1. Sign up for self-defense insurance, like US Lawshield or US CCA.

      2. Go to the library or sign up for your local paper and research local crime stories. Based on those stories, find the best criminal defense attorney in your city/region and put him on speed dial. I’ve gone so far as to memorize this number, along with the number in Step 1.

      3. Don’t talk to the police. Under any circumstances.

      We are entering the phase of our civilization where the government is turning against the very people it is supposed to serve. This has happened in every failed civilization in the past, and, unfortunately, we are not immune to this. It is the natural course of events.

      Prepare accordingly.

      • I would add permanently remove the communist scum engaging in this sort of tyrannical prosecution while no doubt letting real criminals walk. I am more and more convinced that will be our only way out of this mess.

    • Always talk to the cops. “I want a lawyer and have the right to refuse to answer any questions without them present”.

  3. “Whoever commits any of the following acts (“(3) receives or possesses a firearm that is not identified by a serial number.) may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $10,000, or both:…

    Regardless of “intentions”, the wording of the law is quite plain, and quite clear.

    “Whomever” means “anyone”, without limit, without exception. Regardless o the time line, guns, all guns, that do not have serial numbers (even guns possessed prior to GCA) were illegally possessed as of the effective date of Minnesota Statute 609.667.

    NOTE: I am an acknowledged legal expert on this, because I have spent many a night sleeping in a Holiday Inn Express.

    (No, this isn’t a matter of ex post facto law; no one is chargeable for possessing a non-serialized firearm prior the the effective date of the statute)

    • samuare…The law itself is a crime, hopefully a jury sees the rot inherent with Gun Control a lot better than you.

    • As used in this section, “serial number or other identification” means the serial number and other information required under United States Code, title 26, section 5842, for the identification of firearms.

      And these firearms do not fall under the rubric of firearms covered by title 26, sec. 5842.

    • Sam,

      Rob Doar, senior vice president of government affairs with the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, said the legal issues are nuanced, but “essentially the prosecutor is taking a bad reading of poorly drafted legislation.”

      “In a nutshell, 609.667 prohibits the possession of firearms that do not have a serial number. It defines a serial number by referencing federal law, the National Firearms Act,” Doar told Alpha News. “The clear intent of the statute is to prohibit possession of unserialized firearms that fall within the National Firearms Act regulations, for example, automatic weapons and short barrel rifles. Because these weapons are required to be registered at the federal level, they must possess a serial number. The federal government does not prohibit the manufacture of firearms for personal use, and creates zero requirements for serializing personally manufactured firearms.

      “It cannot possibly be construed to extend beyond those types of firearms, because before 1968 firearms were not required to even have serial numbers, but there’s been no question that those are still legal to own today. In fact, the Minnesota DNR auctions off serial-less firearms every year,” he added.https://www.captainsjournal.com/2023/06/18/becker-minnesota-man-facing-felony-charges-for-manufacturing-his-own-firearms/

      • “Rob Doar, senior vice president of government affairs with the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, said the legal issues are nuanced, but “essentially the prosecutor is taking a bad reading of poorly drafted legislation.” ”

        That statement is anchored on the unsupported concept of “intent”, not a direct reading of the law as written.

        “Shall Not Be Infringed”; the intent is irrelevant, the words are plain and clear. If laws need clarification, the clarification should be modification of the law (Constitution).

    • There is a law that says you can and another that says you can’t. Which one is the one to follow? An example of a law made without checking for other applicable laws and the bad law made in haste and ignorance.

      • “There is a law that says you can and another that says you can’t. Which one is the one to follow?”

        That’s the way of American lawmaking. We even have the Californication Supreme Court declaring that simply because a law cannot be physically complied with, does not make a law invalid.

        • But in this case, in Minnesota, there are two laws apparently in conflict with each other. One says that you can build a rifle without a serial, and the other prescribes punishment for breaking a Federal definition of “serialized weapon.”

          Intent is a crucial element in determining if certain acts were criminal. In the law concerning a non-serialized firearm, the intent of the actor would be to deface a Federally-required serial number on a firearm and to possess such a weapon that has been defaced. “Being in possession” of a gun with no serial is not a criminal act in and of itself; it is being mis-applied in this circumstance.

      • I don’t see two laws in conflict here (OK, you could argue the Constitution). The Minnesota law pretty clearly establishes which firearms the serial number thing applies to by referencing controlling federal law. If there’s someone prosecuting without understanding that difference, then it’s a malicious prosecution and needs to be treated as such.

  4. A 22 year old working mechanic probably just starting out on a journey to find his American Dream is charged for clearly doing nothing illegal. To add insult to injury and to make it all go away he can plead guilty to a felony. Tell the nazis to go pound sand and if necessary take the case all the way to the USSC. And while there argue on the basis History Confirms Gun Control is Rooted in Racism and Genocide and demand Gun Control be abolished like its sidekick Slavery.

  5. Make it up as you go, let the process be the punishment with no repercussions… Hope this kid sues the living fuk out of the prosecutor and the sheriff’s office when he is exonerated… Shit just gets crazier and crazier… Should have told them Joe Bribem is his uncle or that he’s Hunters FIRST illegitimate kid…

    • An often overlooked concept is that prosecutors enjoy near-absolute immunity. And of course the sheriff’s office was just following orders.

      • Always keep track of where your local oath breakers reside. Someday that knowledge may be of use.

    • Unfortunately not an option but he can serve as the test case to get an unconstitutional law stricken down at the state level. Would be very surprised if it gets to the federal level which is good for his pending expenses but sucks for those living in the district/circuit if they have similar issues

  6. When the Deputies asked to see the guns, they were looking for a reason to punish the law-abiding.

    • Yep.
      Everyone is guilty of something, we just haven’t caught you yet.
      No citizens left behind.

  7. TWO SIDES TO THA COIN AS THEY SAY , UNDERSTAND THE LAW , HOWEVER WHEN DUDE TRYING TO FOLLOW THE LAW , SHOULD NOT HAVE TRIED TO PUNISH , BUT HELP MAKE MADED GUN LEGAL . HE IS NOT A CRIMINAL , SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN TREADED LIKE ONE .
    SHOULD BE GOING AFTER DRUG LORDS AND THE REAL THUGS .
    LAW SHOULD HAVE STEPPED UP IN HELP AND GAIN A FRIEND , INSTEAD OF MAKING AN ENEMY OF HIM OR MAKE HIM FEEL LIKE THEIR THE ENEMY .
    WHICH SEEMS TO BE THE CASE .

  8. What a nonsense prosecution. Hopefully he ends up like Arizona Ron (from Tucson, used to push the black Yukon).

    Took it to trial, beat it/
    Now he feel he undefeated…

    That said, the answer to cops asking to see something is “No” unless they have a warrant, in which case the answer is to hand them a lawyer’s business card and get busy shutting the fuck up.

  9. Selling AR-15 Rifles Is A Violation of Law?!? (Mexico is at it again -heard today in 1st circuit )

  10. a good attorney can either make the deputies seem like idiots, and therefore agreeing, on the record, they have not the mental capacity to be deputies

    OR

    that they know what they are doing and therefore guilty of oppression under the color authority. which in that case, can ask the judge to place the deputies, sheriff and prosecutor under arrest, or ar least indicate the victim wishes to place them all under citizens arrest.

    until criminals in the LE departments start going to jail, liberals in ‘law” enforcement won’t get the message

  11. Regardless of the stupidity of it, the law isn’t ambiguous, in fact it’s very clear. He is guilty of what he’s been charged with and there’s no doubt about that.

    Aaaand *this* is a perfect example of why I hate the Thin Blue Line, “JuSt FoLlOw ThE lAw” types. Legalism is a plague, especially when it comes from out supposed political allies. Always remember: nothing Stalin did was illegal and this country was founded by armed criminals (by definition) who smuggled guns and shot the period equivalent of police who were carrying out their lawful duties.

    Mr. Anderson broke the law, despite his best efforts to “follow the rules”, and while doing nothing wrong. Even if he eventually beats the charges I suspect he’ll come out the other side with nothing but contempt for “the rules” and those who enforce them. This country needs more people like that

    • “Mr. Anderson broke the law, despite his best efforts to “follow the rules”, and while doing nothing wrong.”

      How can one “break the law while doing nothing wrong?”

      • Simple, one breaks an irrational/immoral law.

        Obliged vs. Obligated.

        You’re not obliged to follow the law, you’re obligated to do so, or else.

        Same as if someone tries to rob you at knife point and has the drop on you. You’re not obliged to fork over your wallet but you are fairly well obligated to do so.

        • You’d still have to do something “wrong” to violate even an irrational or immoral law. Otherwise you wouldn’t be breaking the law.

      • Legality is a far cry from morality. This law is a prime example: serial numbers are unbelievably unlikely to aid in solving crimes, and even if they were the laws requiring them are a clear infringement on my rights. This becomes even more clear when you find out how many manufacturers were put out of business after the passing of the ‘68 GCA because the cost of stamping serial numbers was higher than the cost to build a vast majority of firearms.

      • When you say “he broke the law”, you mistakenly rely on your “common” understanding on the word “serialized”. But in this, as in most laws, one MUST refer to the “definitions” section of the specific statute. If this law relies on the Federal definition, which one commenter said is the case, only Class 3 firearms and firearms manufactured for sale by a Federally licensed firearms manufacturer would be illegal if unserialized and fit the Federal definition of “unserialized” with respect to criminal law. If it true that the state itself has sold/auctioned older firearms that did not bat serial numbers, this would be strong evidence that the state has recognized this fact. Further, long established judicial principle requires that any ambiguity in the law MUST be interpreted in favor of the accused. All of this strongly supports the charge of prosecutorial abuse—even if the arresting officers erred, the prosecutor should have dismissed the charges, as should the judge at the first opportunity.

    • He didn’t break the law.

      The law references federal law. Unless he made an NFA item other than a destructive device, he just made a firearm, and regarding that, the referenced statute requires nothing. Additionally, the portion of the code cited only refers to manufacturers or importers. He is neither. So the statute does not cover him as an individual making a firearm for personal use, and it doesn’t cover the firearm made.

      The law clearly states it applies to serial numbers as referenced in the specifically cited federal code. So it either doesn’t apply to him, or it is vague as it lacks a definition. And while CA may claim they can demand compliance that is impossible, there is much precedent for laws that are too vague being unenforceable. If one wants to say this doesn’t apply only to NFA items, then it has no clear definition of what is regulated, and would fail to meet that test.

    • No, he didn’t break the law. Or didn’t you read said law that was printed above in its entirety?

  12. @Man with no name
    “But in this case, in Minnesota, there are two laws apparently in conflict with each other.”

    Understand. However….

    There is no central office coordinating policies/regulations/laws between federal agencies; many conflicts exist, but have not had catastrophic results (inconsistency, idiocy, good and bad intentions, turf fights and general chaos are acceptable).

    In one instance I endured, we were undergoing inspections by both OSHA and EPA. The condition of our office trash baskets/buckets became an item of contention. One agency demanded the trash baskets have plastic trash liners installed in each and every container. The other agency considered such liners to be impermissible fire hazards. Both claimed superior jurisdiction.

    Fortunately, the agencies had agreed not to inspect at the same time, allowing us to install plastic liners for one agency, then remove them for the other. Letters of complaint to both agencies went unanswered, an no other federal agency admitted to being able to resolve the conflicting regulations.

    ‘Tis the American way.

    • You could say, then, that the Federal law and Minnesota law are in conflict with each other. (I wouldn’t say that, but you could.) In which case, supremacy wins out and the Federal statute takes precedence.

      But this case won’t make it to court. With the absence of a Minnesota law making it illegal to build your own rifle from an unserialized part, the punishment statute is moot in this particular situation.

      • “You could say, then, that the Federal law and Minnesota law are in conflict with each other.”

        That would not be my stance. The matter at hand is whether the law under consideration, itself, is unclear. In this case, the wording is plain, regardless of speculations of “intent”, or faulty reading of a poorly written law/regulation; regardless of whether there is conflict between federal and state law.

  13. “At least we’re not lawyers, so everything that we argue is a moot court.”

    Indeed. Just as with everything else appearing on this blog.

  14. The system uses numbers to keep track of things. I’m still worried about tearing the tag off my mattress. Well at least if someone uses it in a murder it wont be tracked back to me. But golly if it gets stole how will the cops know it belongs to me, just going off of descriptive stains might not be enough to get it back.

  15. Here’s a guess as to why this has gone the way it has – the person who made the noise complaint is one of the usual big fish in a small pond types and wanted the “noise” – in other words folks having fun with /shudder/ guns stopped – once and for all. It doesn’t take much juice to be a big shot in local politics. This plus a boneheaded leftist/statist/fascist prosecutor (and a rather naive young man who thinks the cops are his friends) adds up to railroading a clueless middle class citizen, wasting thousands of the citizen’s and the taxpayer’s dollars, wasting resources that could be used to, you know, go after actual criminals, and lastly (and most importantly!) being seen as doing something to stop those evil ghostly guns haunting the nightmares of the powers that be. Ironic that the derisive and derogatory term “banana republic” was coined to point out corruption elsewhere – now when you look it up in the dictionary, the USA is used as a defining example.

  16. Maybe a ridiculous idea: if you live in MN and make your own firearm for personal use, why not engrave with a number, any number? Not saying you register it, just put a number on it, so when an idiot comes and wants to see it, he sees a “serial number” on it.
    (Yes, all gun laws are infringement).

  17. They should investigate the US v. Price decision from West Virginia. Judge Goodwin, a Clinton appointee, reluctantly followed Bruen and dismissed. Although not precedent in MN, it overturns the Federal requirement for consumers to maintain serial numbers. If the MN and 8th Circuit don’t agree with WV (4th Circuit), Anderson has a good chance of making it to the Supreme Court to get it overturned.

  18. Probably how it’s going to turn out is Anderson takes a plea bargain and the Sheriff’s keeps the gunms.
    They are pretty good at making shit up too, for instance my son was offered a plea bargain, trouble was he plead guilty to a crime he hadn’t committed. Court appointed lawyer swore to me that prosecution would nail his ass on a 35 year sentence, ” try and talk some sense to your son” He took the deal after I convinced him
    he was going to do 35 years(he put his super drunk girlfriend in a closet to keep her from taking the baby and driving off in a car during a fight. Kidnapping, false imprisonment, domestic battery), however the court appointed lawyer failed to mention he was pleading guilty to somthing he never did.
    She and another male cohort are the ones who robbed the stores, my son worked nights. Video got tag on car and traced the owner to him.
    Justice is not equal, you must have much money to buy justice.

  19. Minnesota might allow their residents to manufacture a gun for personal use, but they apparently don’t allow them to possess it afterwards if that’s how that law is written.

    Also, that prick of a deputy that charged the kid for it should become whatever they call a game warden up there. The only LEO’s I’ve ever seen that ticky-tacky about malum prohibitum violations are game wardens.

  20. means the serial number and other information required under United States Code, title 26, section 5842, for the identification of firearms
    Holy cow, that bit right there makes it clear it can only apply to a commercially manufactured firearm. That’s what the heck is defined in that federal statute. And if they’re arresting people under that statute then they’re in clear violation of his civil rights – and they need to not receive qualified immunity as they are evidently too stupid to read the law they are enforcing.

    Hit ’em with the BIG hammer! That way you can buy more 80% lowers!

    • And it’s really telling that you had to go quote a lawyer for something so friggin’ obvious. It should have been the very next sentence after you mentioned part (3) was the part they were obviously getting him under.

  21. “Why Has a Minnesota Man Been Charged With Two Felonies for Making Legal Firearms for His Own Use?”

    “That’s why Anderson thought nothing of letting the deputies look at his firearms.”

    Just want to point out something, not that this is what happened in this case with how he is charged but something to look out for possibly happening in the future. And the reason I point this out is because of something that happened yesterday late afternoon on the range.

    So first, to describe this using this article as an example: In the most strict interpretation of the word of law, a person can legally make a firearm for THEIR PERSONAL USE …. which means in the strict interpretation of the word if the person allows that gun to be in possession of any one else at any time or purposely hands it to another they have committed a crime. When he handed his ‘self made for his personal use’ firearm to the deputies he committed a crime in the most strict interpretation of the word of law.

    Now, why do I point this out? We have a range here locally that the area office for ATF uses by annual lease for various things from their own qualifications to test firing firearms. In the past they have been a pretty social group when we encountered them, never trying to be nazis and they never were assholes. We knew them, a lot of them actually grew up here, their kids went to the schools around here, saw them in church and at community focused function or shopping….etc… just being part of the community. But more recently the make up of the field office personnel has changed.

    So anyway, with the Biden ATF now being out right nazis and assholes and part of his tyranny machine, and a lot of the newer agents starting to be outright assholes toward regular range users…the range decided not to re-new the lease so ATF has until the last day of September left on their existing lease and that’s it. Yesterday, a few ATF agents were out at the range using their lease time (where they have the whole range for a four hour period), just finished up firing their own weapons. I’m at the range sitting back waiting for the ATF to finish up and another regular range user shows up with a couple of his friends.

    They are talking and the guy shows them this 80% gun he just completed and is passing it around for the others to look at. One of the ATF agents (one of the newer guys) walks up and asks “You built that?” to which the guy says “yes I did.” The ATF agent says “If I see you hand it to anyone else I’ll arrest you.” the guy asks why and the ATF agent says “The law says you can make it for your personal use, if you hand it to anyone else it becomes a gun you made for their personal use and not yours.” The guy asks “since when?” the ATF agent says “Since our boss says and the law says.”

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