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Bump Stock Ban Retroactively Criminalizes Possession of Legally Acquired Products

Current owners of newly prohibited devices could go to prison for keeping them.

Slide Fire SolutionsSlide Fire SolutionsThe proposed ban on bump stocks not only applies to a wide, vague range of firearm accessories, as Christian Britschgi noted this morning. It also criminalizes mere possession of those accessories, making owners subject to fines and up to five years in prison, even if they acquired the newly prohibited items before the ban was enacted.

In that respect the bill, introduced by Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), differs from, say, the expired federal ban on so-called assault weapons, which did "not apply to the possession or transfer of any semiautomatic assault weapon otherwise lawfully possessed under Federal law on the date of the enactment of this subsection." State "assault weapon" bans likewise allow continued possession of the targeted firearms, as long as owners register them with the government. Curbelo and Moulton's bill, by contrast, says "this section and the amendments made by this section shall apply with respect to conduct engaged in after the 90-day period that begins with the date of the enactment of this Act." That means continued possession after that point would be a federal felony.

The criminal penalties are especially problematic given the uncertain scope of the bill, which bans "any part or combination of parts that is designed and functions to increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but does not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun." That definition pretty clearly covers the products made by companies such as Slide Fire Solutions and Bump Fire Systems, which harness recoil energy to help shooters fire without flexing their trigger fingers. But it might also reach other, less controversial products that can help people fire a gun more quickly, not to mention do-it-yourself solutions that are impossible to regulate but might make tinkerers vulnerable to prosecution.

"There are a hundred ways to make a semiautomatic firearm fire more quickly, and there is no way to prevent them," says Rep. Thomas Massie, the libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican who leads the Congressional Second Amendment Caucus. "You can use common household items."

Even leaving aside the question of how the ban might affect the legal status of rubber bands, metal bars, or pieces of wood (depending on the owner's intent), Massie worries that the bill could prohibit products that may have nothing to do with the mass shooting in Las Vegas but are arguably covered by the ban. "There is an industry that takes your off-the-shelf firearm and improves the trigger so that you can be more accurate and shoot it faster," he says. "Those implements aren't designed to simulate full auto fire, but they could be read into the language of that bill."

For example, Massie says, "if it takes four pounds of pull to activate a stock trigger with your finger, these devices may reduce that to two pounds. Nobody has a problem with those, as far as I know, with the exception of all the liberals who want to ban all guns. People don't have a problem with those devices, but they could be read into that language."

Massie is also troubled by the retroactive criminalization of devices that people already own. "Are the manufacturers going to be compelled by the government to turn over lists of customers who legally acquired [products] that were declared by the regulatory authority to be legal?" he wonders. "This could set the precedent for a gun grab if you're retroactively banning these things."

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  • BYODB||


    "Are the manufacturers going to be compelled by the government to turn over lists of customers who legally acquired [products] that were declared by the regulatory authority to be legal?" he wonders. "This could set the precedent for a gun grab if you're retroactively banning these things."


    Feature, not bug.

  • BYODB||

    And, furthermore, this is yet one more example of 'regulatory rubberbanding'. One second thing A might be legal, the next second the very same thing will be totally illegal, then once again a few minutes later it becomes legal again.

    What incentive is there to follow the law when it's constantly changing and there are at least thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of them at any one time? If someone is arrested for having, say, a bump stock and then it's decided by the next administration to be legal are those people let out of prison? Are they then sent back to prison once it's decided that it's illegal again?

    Making the law inherently unknowable and unpredictable undermines the very concept of the rule of law not to mention trust in the government. Additionally, while I'm sure libertarians in particular care very little about trust in the government, it explains why politics are becoming uglier. When factions of people are able to harm you through legislation you have an incentive to push back and an emotional reaction to harm them back. That doesn't end well for anyone.

  • sarcasmic||

    Let out of prison? Haaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahaha!

  • BYODB||

    Exactly.

  • Quixote||

    Come now, there's nothing wrong with retroactively criminalizing things that we need to crack down on, courts do this all the time and it's called "harmless error." That's exactly how we put the Dead Sea Troll in jail, by retroactively criminalizing inappropriately deadpan "parody" that damages a reputation, and no one in his right mind would bother complaining about that. To be precise: the damage-to-reputation standard didn't exist at the time of the trial, but it was created by the New York Court of Appeals and retroactively applied. Surely no one here would dare to defend the "First Amendment dissent" of a single, isolated judge in America's leading criminal "satire" case? See the documentation at:

    https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

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  • flyfishnevada||

    By George, I think he's got it...

  • Eek Barba Durkle||

    I thought THIS was 'rubberbanding'?

  • BambiB||

    Cogent analysis - but our government doesn't let people out of prison when whatever they did becomes legal. If you were arrested for pot possession and sent to prison in Colorado before pot became legal, you just sit and rot there.

  • commentguy||

    You seem to think that people might not hear about this law, and fall foul of the law as a result. This seems completely unfounded as passing any such law would generate a huge amount of publicity.

    As for your hypothetical 'thing A', surely it's a good thing if it only has a brief period of prohibition? And can you provide one or two particularly egregious of this phenomenon?

  • Otis B. Driftwood||

    But think of the tens of millions of innocent lives that will be saved! And now that pushing gun control are completely placated, we can live together in harmony without any more bans! It took us a long time, but we've finally arrived!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Indeed, the progressive gods' hunger will be satiated for the whole time period leading up to the next required sacrifice.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    It also criminalizes mere possession of those accessories, making owners subject to fines and up to five years in prison, even if they acquired the newly prohibited items before the ban was enacted.

    Doesn't this represent a fifth amendment taking?

    I was under the impression that the reason bills like the AWB had grandfather clauses is because otherwise the government would be on the hook for paying for huge amounts to all the existing owners.

  • juris imprudent||

    Think ex post facto; very clever for the BRA to not object. Pathetic that Congress-critters can't draft a law so fundamentally flawed.

  • juris imprudent||

    Shit, NRA. Stoopid fat finger.

  • Juice||

    The problem is that possession is an ongoing process. You may have possessed it before the law was enacted, but you also possess it afterward and you would be in violation and it wouldn't be unconstitutional. If they tried to prosecute you for selling or buying it, then that would be ex post facto.

  • Tionico||

    Not so.. as being a part of afirearm, KEEPING is an ongoing act. If I can legally "keep" a certain item now, that I now possess, passing a law declaring that i can no longer "keep" that item IS ex post facto. My "keeping" began prior to the law's passage, continues up to the moment it is enacted, and SHOULD, even MUST, be allowed to continue into the future indefinitely. If I am not a criminal for possessing Item C today, I will not be a criminal for possessing that item tomorrow, even if some bozos enact a phoney law "banning" that item. Can'tdo it.

    Further, such a ban, being for a commonly possessed firearm accessory, is unconstitutional on its face, thus null and void and of no effect.

    Tell the bozos to stuff it.

  • BambiB||

    Can do it. Will do it.

    The main reason for exempting previously-owned firearms under the "assault weapon" ban would be to tamp down opposition. If current owners are exempted, many will see no reason to fight the legislation. The class of people who might "someday" want to buy an "assault weapon" is relatively small and the number who would protest substantially smaller. In general, unconstitutional laws and criminal acts by the legislature that do not affect people today are easier to pass. Obozocare - where the onerous parts didn't kick in until years later. Deficit spending, the whole point of which is to buy things today and stick future generations with the tab. If every deficit bill were accompanied by a tax increase to pay for it - the gravy train would end.

    In seeking to ban currently-owned bumps stocks these clowns are only betting that the number of people who own them is significantly less than the number of people who are "outraged" by the massacre.

  • GroundTruth||

    Tell that to FDR when he outlawed the private ownership of most gold.

    Court-packing scheme or not, damn the courts who rolled over for the "Progressive" agenda. And damn FDR too while we're at it.

  • flyfishnevada||

    I'm pretty sure this bill was written as more of a statement than a serious piece of legislation. It's rife with issues and Constitutional problems. If the ban ever sees the light of day, it won't be in it's present form.

  • Hank Phillips||

    National Socialist Brazil declared all guns not turned in to armed gubmint goons illegal. So there are caches of weapons sealed and buried in oilcloth... just like in the countries Germany and Russia invaded back in the day.

  • commentguy||

    "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation" - the key term is "public use". It could only remotely be public use if a government used a weapons ban as a cheap way of supplying the armed forces or police.

  • DajjaI||

    Trumpkins fiercely defended gun rights so they could buy guns to use to round up illegals, muslims, blacks and libtards. This ban would serve them right (and ironically they are so dispirited by Trump that many of them actually support it as a final act of self-destruction) and GOD I HOPE IT PASSES.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""Trumpkins fiercely defended gun rights so they could buy guns to use to round up illegals, muslims, blacks and libtards. ""

    Stupid statement and represents why I don't think there should be any discussion until the anti-gun crowd quit disrespecting legal gun owners. For this reason alone, I HOPE IT DOESN'T PASS

    Common sense laws can't happen unless common sense is present. When hatred rules, common sense is absent.

  • flyfishnevada||

    Don't tease the mental patients. It's not nice.

  • BambiB||

    Bump stocks are just another part of the Nevada killer's ill-conceived plan. They increase rate of fire, but pretty much eliminate accuracy. At the distance from which he was firing, he would have been lucky to get within 50 feet of his aim point.

    If he had really wanted to kill a lot of people, a better way to do it would be with a series of bombs. Or a poisonous gas. Or by driving a big truck into the crowd.

    If he was wedded to the idea of shooting people, he could have been more effective with a higher-caliber firearm like an M-1A or AR-10. The .223 round he used loses 2/3 of its force at 400 yards. A .308 has MORE force at 400 yards than the .223 at the muzzle. That is, instead of wounding a bunch of people, he much more likely would have killed them.

    But even using a bolt-action deer rifle, it's likely he could have killed more people by shooting from further out. This would have made it crowd much less likely to hear the gun shots and identify them as the source of danger. Instead, people would simply have started dropping dead in the crowd for reasons not immediately clear. He might have fired for 20 minutes, killed over 100 people, and never have been detected.

  • commentguy||

    Is it easy to get hold of lots of cylinders of poisonous gas? Wait, no it's not - because sales of poisonous gas are highly regulated, unlike the sale of guns.

  • commentguy||

    PS forgot to add: you don't think that word of mouth might spread in the crowd when people started falling down dead with bullet holes in their bodies? I've never seen someone get shot for real, but I like to think I would notice the blood seeping out of their torso and put 2 and 2 together!

  • Muzzle of Bees||

    How can it be a felony, subject to locking a person in a cage, for the possession of a piece of plastic with a metal spring? What the hell is wrong with these people?

  • DajjaI||

    Trumpkins will have more than enough time to ponder this issue in prison. Let us know if you figure it out!

  • target||

    are you talking bump stocks or about high capacity mags? Springs in the bump stocks were already outlawed by the ATF years ago, but your description is an exact fit for the dreaded high capacity magazines.

  • singlestack||

    There's no spring. Commercial bump fire stocks are just molded plastic with no moving parts.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    We're still talking about a shoelace and keyring here, right?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "There are a hundred ways to make a semiautomatic firearm fire more quickly, and there is no way to prevent them," says Rep. Thomas Massie, the libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican who leads the Congressional Second Amendment Caucus. "You can use common household items."

    Seems the obvious solution is to criminalize this knowledge.

  • flyfishnevada||

    If you are a shooting instructor can you no longer teach shooters how to double tap? If you use the belt loop technique will your pants become illegal? Hell, let's just ban everything that's not a single shot...oh wait. Some of us can load faster than others.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Some of us can load faster than others.

    Nope. Banned. (Exception: former law enforcement.)

  • Eek Barba Durkle||

    Is there a law against adding 550 cord to the bottom of your magazines, to aid in magazine changes?

    I can EASILY finish a prepped magazine, hit a knee, switch them out, chamber a round, and be back on target in less than 2 seconds.

  • Darr247||

    So, if your finger can pull that trigger faster than mine can, you either have to amputate your finger or serve time for a federal felony. That's how I read it.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    That's it, everyone turn in your index fingers.

  • Hank Phillips||

    In formalin? Like the Jew-hunting bounty hunter in teevee's "The Man In The High Castle?"

  • I can't even||

    They are literally talking about banning rubber-bands.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5XzQ1BS7gU

  • flyfishnevada||

    And belt loops, sticks and even index fingers. I doubt this version of the bill will ever make it to a vote but...

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I have something for the corrupt politicians to remember:
    ex post facto laws are prohibited and the 2nd Amendment shall no be infringed.

  • I can't even||

    New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts disagree. They have successfully passed ex post facto gun bans and the court cases never went anywhere. The NJ gun law retroactively banned thousands of M1 Carbines.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Oh I guess that I failed to mention corrupt judges too.

  • Bubba Jones||

    The argument there is that these guns could be sold out of state.

    I suppose they will argue these can be shipped to Canada?

  • flyfishnevada||

    I suspect (hope?) that vague language and lack of grandfathering will be stripped from the bill if the bill even makes it out of committee. Any part? That means triggers with lighter or shorter pulls and/or reset, for just one example. And since there is no standard trigger design and triggers don't have identifying serial numbers, how can anyone be sure it hasn't been replaced or upgraded. And what about guns built by individuals or gunsmiths? Will they only be allowed to install a government approved trigger? The questions go on and on.

    I doubt this will pass but it's scary. You can usually count on the GOP to support gun rights but even that is apparently waning. They are turning out to be cowards, more afraid of the media than their own constituents. Can't repeal Obamacare after years of promises, can't formulate a tax plan that doesn't mimic out current Byzantine code and no won't even stand for the 2nd Amendment. At least the Dems have the courage of their convictions.

  • Sterling Archer||

    I realize this probably wouldn't stand up in court, but I think one could argue that this DOES NOT clearly ban bump stocks.

    "...any part or combination of parts that is designed and functions to increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but does not convert the semiautomatic into a machinegun; or..."

    The bump stock doesn't increase the rate of fire of the semiautomatic. The rate of fire is mechanically limited by the speed at which the action cycles and the trigger resets. The bump stock increases the speed at which the user can actuate the trigger.

    Put another way, if Person A is faster than Person B, does Person A increase the rate of fire of the rifle?

  • Longtobefree||

    Absolutely! And he will find his sorry ass in jail.

  • Bubba Jones||

    It doesn't even do that. It is designed to help maintain control of the weapon while bump firing. It does not enable bump firing, per se. Weapons can be bump fired without this device.

  • MikeyParks||

    And all so they can be seen by the voters as virtuous, compassionate men. This ban, if enacted, wouldn't save a single life, ever.

  • m.EK||

    Just imagine if the "interpretation" of the second amendment was that it told the federal government, their employees, and contractors what they could NOT legislate, decree, or "rule" on. I know this has not been the case for about 160 years, but what would it be like if that was what the Amendments actually meant.

  • Minarchian||

    Article I, Section 10, Clause 1

    "No...ex post facto Law shall be passed."

    If they gave a damm at all about the Constitution

  • Eman||

    Oh, you mean that piece of paper written 250 years ago by old white men? I think that's all that needs to be said.

  • logicprobe||

    Aren't ex post facto laws forbidden in the U.S. Constitution? Article 1 Section 9 Clause 3 for federal laws and Article 1 Section 10 for state laws?

  • LarryA||

    See "Lautenberg Amendment."

  • Hank Phillips||

    Once Congress starts in on the new Kristallnacht laws, I gots dibs on drafting the first bill of attainder!

  • Longtobefree||

    Only if you actually care about the constitution.
    If you actually care about the constitution, you do not pass laws attempting to infringe on constitutional rights.

  • Eman||

    But we've already passed every law that's conceivably constitutional. How else are legislators (or the executive branch, when the legislature is being uncooperative) supposed to justify their existence?

  • John B. Egan||

    Imagine that. The first time in history that a ban has been retrocative..unlike Hand Grenades..Because when possession of hand grenades was made illegal, everyone who owned one got to keep it, right? ..Or alcohol..because at the advent of Prohibition, if you already owned it, it was OK.. or the criminalization of pot and heroine.. 'Already got it.. Free to go!'.. Car retrofit of smog devices? Sure man! Your car didn't come with the 'Green Demon'.. No problemo! Smoke Detectors.. Built before 1960.. Pshaw! Can anyone really believe this nonsense? We have a decades long history of passing retroactive legislation like this.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    And we have decades of bad legislation like this going nowhere or being vetoed.

  • Bubba Jones||

    I don't understand your comment.

    Prohibition did not ban possession or consumption of alcohol. "Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages that remained in place from 1920 to 1933. "

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P.....ted_States

    Likewise, older cars are not required to have current smog technology.

  • Eman||

    In my experience at least "I've gotten away with it before" isn't an excuse that holds up in court, but I guess it might be a different story if I were the one paying the judge. Maybe having a government of laws is unrealistic as long as we have to rely on men to administer it.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Socialists and nationalsocialists are the grabbers and banners. Calling them "liberal" as a smear identifies the caller as a disgruntled Herbert Hoover Republican or German National Socialist.

  • The Pessimistic Shrink||

    HIT & RUN BLOG
    "Bump Stock Ban Retroactively Criminalizes Possession of Legally Acquired Products"

    Really? Too goddamned bad.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    There will be no gun control law.

    Trump is distracting lefties with a carrot. The lefties fall for it every time.

  • starman2112||

    Question from someone who knows very little about guns: are there other technologies that are as seemingly simple as the bump stocks able to dramatically change the lethality of guns? Are those banned? It seems like the Las Vegas shooter used the deadliest technology legally available.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Machine guns aren't actually banned.

    You can purchase any machine gun that was manufactured prior to 1986 (and owned by a civilian at the time?) if you pay a transfer tax of $200.

  • ace_m82||

    are there other technologies that are as seemingly simple as the bump stocks able to dramatically change the lethality of guns

    Bump stocks seem to make the gun less lethal in that it makes the gun harder to hit someone in a place where it will kill them. Why were there 58 dead and over 500 wounded? Because killing someone with a bullet isn't easy to do. You can hit someone in lots of places that won't kill them.

    A better trigger will help with practical accuracy and would make the gun more potentially lethal.

    A better barrel will help with accuracy and would make the gun more potentially lethal.

    A better sighting system (red dot, scope, etc. depending on range) will help with practical accuracy and would make the gun more potentially lethal.

    A better ammo (for the situation) will increase the odds that a hit will kill someone.

    There are others, but these are some of the major ones.

    Now, literally ALL of these simple, (relatively) cheap technologies, that have existed for 150 years or more, are improvements gun folk like me make to deer rifles to make them more lethal to deer. ALL of these improvements will help everyone kill a deer, or a human, easier than a "bump stock" (which is a fun gimmick).

  • ace_m82||

    I forgot that better ammo can often increase accuracy too.

  • Brendan||

    A shooter firing as fast as his finger would let him, while using a heavier barreled gun would have had more control due to less perceived recoil, and fewer reliability problems due to overheating.

  • Eman||

    NOTHING LEFT TO CUT!!!!!

  • Bubba Jones||

    Increase the rate of fire, compared to what?

    The bump stock is no faster than a belt loop for the purposes of bump firing. Therefore, the bump stock does NOT function to increase the rate of fire. It functions to make the weapon more controllable while bump firing.

    This should be easy enough to document.

  • Navy CWO||

    "Massie is also troubled by the retroactive criminalization of devices that people already own."
    Those pushing such a law having the above noted consequences obviously have no knowledge of our constitution!

    I recommend they read Article I, Section 9, Clause 3 of the Constitution!

    I find it amazing that the elected representatives of the people do not know or understand what is contained in the Constitution and what it allows and prohibits!

    So much for public education!

  • Denan7||

    I share the concerns over the ban of bump stocks. They do nothing to address the real problem plaguing America and that is that our society is creating and saving the monsters that make the choices necessary to slaughter one or more human beings in cold blood.

    As a society we are studiously ignoring the billion pound beast in the living room.. or hotel room or night club or school or church or wherever they damn well please.

    Banning guns will be the end of liberty, but not the end of mass murders - only the beginning of worse from new sources in the then even sicker society.

  • TxJack 112||

    What many people do not realize is banning bump stocks will eliminate the actual reason for which they were originally designed, allowing a person with one hand to easy fire a rifle. The vagueness of the bill is what trouble me. What is the definition of "increase the rate of fire" since there is no standardized rate of fire for a rifle. If ANYTHING that increases the rate of fire is banned, does this include nickel boron BCGs or hi tech lubricates? I hope as another post says this is just a statement to pretend to do something and not an actual attempt to implement this bill as law. However, if nothing else, this bill demonstrates the very issue that concerned the founders when they wrote the 2nd amendment. When given the opportunity to restrict the ability of the people to arm and protect themselves, the government will always seize it. Anti gun supporters claim "no one is coming for your guns" but the wording of this laws proves they do not need to by simply making every component in them illegal.

  • Denan7||

    Excellent comment. Thanks.

  • commentguy||

    Not much to say except that it doesn't retroactively criminalize possession. If you have one of these but throw it away before the date the law (hypothetically) comes into effect, you're in the clear. You may not like having to throw away your property (I certainly wouldn't) but it is false to say that the law has a retroactive effect. You cannot be punished for what you did before any ban begins.

  • DaveGinOly||

    The current possession of an article of property cannot be made criminal without reaching back to its acquisition, because if the acquisition was legal, then continued possession must be also be lawful because the owner has established a right to the property – the criminalization must reach the act of acquisition in order to de-legitimize the claim to a right to the property. Therefore such a ban is an ex post facto law.

    Criminalization of lawfully acquired property also violates the right to due process and the separation of powers. The "due process" guaranteed in the Constitution is "due process of law", i.e. judicial process, the only process constitutionally authorized to deprive a citizen of his property, and only then as punishment upon conviction for a crime. (The V Amendment deals with trials and prosecutions, and the limits on government and the rights of accused during same, so the "due process" clause must be regarded within this context.) Legislation that takes property intrudes upon the judiciary's authority to take property via "due process."

  • commentguy||

    No. Acquisition and possession are considered two separate acts at law. You also seem confused about the role of the judiciary. They enforce the laws, which are written by the executive.

  • emmanuel||

    Fifth amendment prohibits retroactive laws.

  • jerryg1018||

    Retroactively banning bump stocks purchased prior to the enactment of a law banning them violates the ex post facto clause of the Constitution. It's the reason the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban only applied to firearms manufactured after the ban became law. It's also the reason that recent attempts to make unlawful possession of previously purchased high capacity magazines were struck down by the federal courts.
    Go here to find your senator and congressman to send them a note telling them that if they vote for the bump stock or any other gun ban they can start looking for another job,

    https://democracy.io/#/location

    democracy IO is a project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation www.eff.org

  • DaveGinOly||

    Why should we trade bump stocks (or anything else, no matter of how little value) for something that should be ours (unfettered access to firearms and accouterments) by right? We should be demanding our rights, not groveling to get them back by trading trinkets for them. Getting our rights "back" via legislation will do two things: 1.) it will acknowledge (no matter how incorrectly) that certain firearms rights are subject to legislative injunction; and 2.) it will leave those rights subject to being legislated away in the future, leaving us without the right and without whatever it was we initially traded away for the "right."
    Let them do what they want. Those who vote against our rights will expose themselves as traitors, and hopefully voted out of office, and we can pursue judicial remedies, for which we have a window of opportunity (that may actually widen in the next two or three years) during which SCOTUS is favorably disposed to us. Setting precedents in lower courts and having definitive opinions by SCOTUS are far more agreeable to long-term retention of our right to arms. We cannot worry about adverse decisions forever. They will certainly eventually come if we don't get precedent set now.

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