Firearms Safety In The Entertainment Industry

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K'Tesh

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As many may have heard by now, there was a fatal shooting at the set of the movie "RUST". Actor Alec Baldwin somehow accidentally killed the film's cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins and injured Joel Souza .

This is awful news, and harkens back to the tragic shooting of Brandon Lee, and the accidental death of Jon-Erik Hexum.

Obviously things need to change in the industry to prevent any repeats of these tragedies.

Folks need to remember that guns are not toys, and should always be treated as if they could be loaded and capable of harming someone.
 
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Kelly

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I don't understand how an industry that can spend tens of millions of dollars for a single actor's salary per film can't afford to get a realistic looking prop that is incapable of killing a person. What is a real firearm doing on a movie set?
 

Funkworks

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I don't understand how an industry that can spend tens of millions of dollars for a single actor's salary per film can't afford to get a realistic looking prop that is incapable of killing a person. What is a real firearm doing on a movie set?
I understand that movie makers want to make things as realistic as possible for viewers, so it's probably a great sales pitch by special effect companies to say "this "prop" is "literally as realistic as possible".

Apparently, some staff members walked off set some time before the incident due to poor working conditions, so maybe safety procedures were overlooked (doesn't explain WTH live ammo was anywhere near though).

I suspect actors like Baldwin have much more on their mind than safety. They're not pilots or doctors or firearms experts, what they worry about is staying in character. It's the effects peoples' job to worry about safety.

Only opinions. The investigation is ongoing of course.

In any case, the industry has made much progress since the Buster Keaton and Barnstormer era.
 

David Schwantz

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I suspect actors like Baldwin have much more on their mind than safety. They're not pilots or doctors or firearms experts, what they worry about is staying in character.
There is NOTHING farther from the truth.
When ever you have a firearm in your hand, that is ALL that should be on your mind.
The ONLY person responsible for that firearm is the person holding it.
He was 100% at fault.
I am sorry people were hurt.
 

rfjustin

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There is NOTHING farther from the truth.
When ever you have a firearm in your hand, that is ALL that should be on your mind.
The ONLY person responsible for that firearm is the person holding it.
He was 100% at fault.
I am sorry people were hurt.
Its Hollywood dude, how would scenes like this be possible without pointing a gun at the intended targets? Interesting to note that the tactics applied in this very short scene took months for Tom Cruise to master. Outside of Hollywood I am with you all the way. Someone screwed the pooch on this one and it was not Alec IMO.

Warning, F-Bomb at end of short clip:
 

K'Tesh

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It's my understanding that the gun that killed Brandon Lee was previously used to show a scene where the magazine was loaded into the weapon. The bullets in said magazine were "safed" by having the lead projectile removed, allowing the gunpowder charges dumped out and the projectile to be re-inserted in the now emptied round. However, a bullet somehow became lodged in the barrel, and the subsequent blank fired that projectile into Brandon.

With Jon-Erik Hexum, he was goofing off with the blank loaded gun, and put it to his head to simulate a head shot suicide, thinking he couldn't be harmed. The forces of the blank then hammered his skull and brain causing the fatal injury.

I don't know what happened with Alec's gun. I suspect that it was something similar to the situation with Brandon. If that is the case, I would recommend that no gun that can take "bullets in the magazine" would ever be used for blanks, and perhaps the guns that fire blanks (and maybe even the blanks themselves) be modified in such a way that they could never allow a round with a projectile to be inserted anywhere near the barrel.
 

boatgeek

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Apparently Baldwin had just been handed the gun and told that it was safe. There is obviously a level of responsibility there on the armorer’s part. I don’t know what is customary in set gun safety.

There are directors who do not permit live ammo on set, even reduced charge blanks. One of them was quoted saying that muzzle flashes and gunshot sounds are the easiest and most convincing SFX available. Obviously other people disagree or this accident wouldn’t have happened.
 

Sandy H.

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Haven't heard about it, but will learn more. I feel bad for both parties, as one is dead and one pulled the trigger, likely assuming nothing more than a fake pop.

Given our current technologies with CGI etc., I can't imagine the insurance cost of live, reduced live, blank or whatever the term is would outweigh the cost of doing it in CGI. If the recoil and reaction is important, then have the engineers figure out how to make the gun beat the heck out of you when you pull the trigger without using anything coming out the front.

Sad for sure. At the end of the day, it could have been prevented, regardless of the cause. But once everybody thinks everything is taken care of, things go south fast if it wasn't actually taken care of.

Sandy.
 

Scott_650

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Apparently Baldwin had just been handed the gun and told that it was safe. There is obviously a level of responsibility there on the armorer’s part. I don’t know what is customary in set gun safety.

There are directors who do not permit live ammo on set, even reduced charge blanks. One of them was quoted saying that muzzle flashes and gunshot sounds are the easiest and most convincing SFX available. Obviously other people disagree or this accident wouldn’t have happened.
Mitigating circumstance but NOT an acceptable reason for letting AB off the hook. In my professional life I had responsibility for storage and maintenance of our unit’s mobility small arms - any rifle or pistol stored in our vault that didn’t belong to the SPs, Operations or the marksmanship team were my section’s responsibility. These weapons were rarely ever fired - typically only when members (along with alternates/back-ups) were getting ready to deploy and had to take a weapon, then they’d have to qualify with whichever one they were taking - but I insisted that any weapon anyone picked up to clean/inspect was checked. Open the bolt or pull the slide every time you handled it regardless of whether it just came out of a sealed storage case or just back from training or from down range. And what do you know, myself and two of my subordinates, on three different occasions, had a live round pop out of supposedly “safe” weapons. The rules don’t change - every gun is considered loaded until the person holding it checks for themselves, every time, always, no exceptions - and the person holding the weapon has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that the weapon is handled safely.
 

Kelly

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I understand that movie makers want to make things as realistic as possible for viewers,
Give me the money that Baldwin makes for ONE film, and I will develop a handgun that is indistinguishable from the real thing by an expert (from the outside). And even produces a noise, a flash, and a recoil, if you want those as well.

For all the reasons that Justin and David have mentioned (regarding proper gun handling), there's no justification for ever having an actual gun on a film set, ever.
 

kuririn

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Latest updates I read say that the armorer loaded three guns with live rounds and laid them out. A producer picked one up and gave it to Baldwin saying "cold gun" (meaning safe, no live rounds).
Baldwin was shooting a scene where he aims the gun directly at the camera and shoots. The cinematographer who was filming the scene was directly hit and the guy standing behind her was wounded.
Why did the armorer put live rounds in, and why did the producer think it was blanks?
We won't have answers until the police investigation is complete.
 

Rory Gin

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Latest updates I read say that the armorer loaded three guns with live rounds and laid them out. A producer picked one up and gave it to Baldwin saying "cold gun" (meaning safe, no live rounds).
Baldwin was shooting a scene where he aims the gun directly at the camera and shoots. The cinematographer who was filming the scene was directly hit and the guy standing behind her was wounded.
Why did the armorer put live rounds in, and why did the producer think it was blanks?
We won't have answers until the police investigation is complete.
The armourer was young and not experienced (2nd movie as the lead armourer). Set safety was questioned by multiple people and the DOP killed was one of the people who thought safety was not being done properly. Union people were replaced by non-union people due to people walking off the set complaining about conditions. No union people were on the call sheet that day. The armourer prepped 3 guns and for whatever reason a live round was on set. An AD (assistant director) not a producer picked up a gun from 3 in a cart to give to Baldwin. It doesn't appear that he checked the firearm. He gives it to Baldwin and calls out "cold gun". Baldwin apparently doesn't check. During the scene, he fires the gun towards the camera where the DOP and the director are standing. She gets hit in the chest, round exits and wounds the director in the shoulder. There is some question about whether it was a live round or a leftover piece of metal stuck in the barrel from earlier use and fired out by the blank. (Same situation as The Crow?) After the incident the armourer checked the firearm and pulled out the cartridge for inspection and later turned everything over to the police for evidence.

I understand live rounds are occasionally used to capture the authenticity of the sound but they should always be fired without other personnel present. Rounds with no powder are sometimes used for close-ups, but blanks are used to generate the action and smoke, etc. most of the time. But the impression I get is that the protocols for handling firearms were either not up to standard or were not followed. Live round firearms should never be handled by the actors.

Oh and real firearms have been used on sets since the beginning of the industry. Sometimes they are made inoperative (i.e. no firing pin) but firearms are cheaper and more realistic than replicas. They will continue to be used on sets for the foreseeable future, however CG will play a greater role in the future.
 
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Cape Byron

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An AD (assistant director) not a producer picked up a gun from 3 in a basket to give to Baldwin. It doesn't appear that he checked the firearm. He gives it to Baldwin and calls out "cold gun".
As someone who shot handgun competition for a long time, I find this ridiculous. If someone tells me a gun is not loaded I'll still double-check it myself. I'll check it before it goes into the safe and again when I take it out. Good habit to have.

Sounds like basic firearms safety was being ignored on the set. A recipe for disaster.

As an aside, how hard is it for actors to take a basic firearms safety course? Not like they couldn't afford it.
 

Rory Gin

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As someone who shot handgun competition for a long time, I find this ridiculous. If someone tells me a gun is not loaded I'll still double-check it myself. I'll check it before it goes into the safe and again when I take it out. Good habit to have.

Sounds like basic firearms safety was being ignored on the set. A recipe for disaster.

As an aside, how hard is it for actors to take a basic firearms safety course? Not like they couldn't afford it.
Yup. Like I mentioned, the safety protocols on the site were questionable. It should be standard practise that every time one is handled by anybody that it be checked. Lots of blame to go around on this one.
 

manixFan

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For those of you saying the actor should have checked the firearm and made sure it was empty, I think you are misunderstanding the issue. From the reporting I've read, the gun in question was a Colt Single Action revolver. The big issue with revolvers is you can see into the cylinder and tell whether the gun is loaded or not. It's one of the first things I look for in any scene that has a revolver that faces the camera - if the cylinders are empty the scene loses all credibility. So unlike a firearm that uses a magazine where the cartridges are not visible, revolvers require dummy rounds to look realistic. In revolvers wax bullets (or some similar material) are often used if the open cylinder will be visible during firing. Oftentimes the cartridges will be loaded with just a primer, which is enough to fire the wax bullet. The wax can still dangerous but under the vast majority of circumstances not lethal. But they can be made to look identical to normal cartridges, which is the point.

So to say that the actor should have checked and made sure the gun was empty does not apply here. Actors and everyone else on the set rely on the armorer to make sure guns, whether prop or real, are safe for the scene in which they are to be used. Discharging a firearm directly at the camera is very common in movies. And think of the thousands of movie scenes that show an actor loading rounds into a magazine and then into a firearm and cocking it to make sure it is loaded. By the logic of making sure the gun should be unloaded such scenes could never have been filmed.

It's been stated in the press that the scene being filmed had the actor shooting directly at the camera. So the actor did exactly what he was supposed to do. If you are blaming the actor you might as well blame the screen writer for writing that action.

In my mind, the real fault lies with the armorer and the AD who picked up the firearm and handed it to the actor. The armorer's primary responsibility is safety. The AD should have verified with the armorer that the gun was in fact a 'cold gun' before passing it along.

There have been deadly firearms accidents on movies set before, and there will likely be again. I don't mean to sound cavalier but the same is true regarding car stunts - no matter how many stunt actors have been killed or seriously injured filming car chases and crashes, they continue to be filmed as 'practical' effects. (Real cars and drivers, not CGI.) No matter how good CGI is, for some shots practical effects are just easier, faster, more realistic, etc. Unless firearms are specifically banned from sets, they will continue to be used.


Tony

PS: After reading through the Wikipedia list of film and TV accidents, a much more obvious conclusion would be to ban helicopters from being used to film movies:

 
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CalebJ

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Sure, that much is clear. But that doesn't make it 'end of story' by any stretch.
 

MikeT

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Sure, that much is clear. But that doesn't make it 'end of story' by any stretch.
Sure it is . It speaks volumes on just how clueless Hollywood really is. I want to know who loaded the gun?

Mike
 

manixFan

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Sure it is . It speaks volumes on just how clueless Hollywood really is. I want to know who loaded the gun?

Mike
Really? The armorer loaded the gun (or has final responsibility on checking it after it was loaded). Have you ever watched a John Wick movie? Or the TV series 24? Hollywood is far from clueless when it comes to firearms. This was an accident caused by two people who failed at their job. It could just as easily been any number of a different kind of stunts that lead to a death and serious injury. People make mistakes and bad things happen. That doesn’t indict an entire industry.

Construction workers are routinely killed by a similar level of ‘local incompetence’, where’s the outrage over that? We can’t let another worker ever go down into another trench ever again!

I’m not trying to minimize in any way the seriousness of what happened, but accidents happen through negligence in every industry. But because this involves a gun and a famous actor it sure seems folks have lost perspective on the entirety of the situation.


Tony.
 
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MikeT

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Really? The armorer loaded the gun (or has final responsibility on checking it after it was loaded). Have you ever watched a John Wick movie? Or the TV series 24? Hollywood is far from clueless when it comes to firearms. This was an accident caused by two people who failed at their job. It could just as easily been any number of a different kind of stunts that lead to a death and serious injury. People make mistakes and bad things happen. That doesn’t indict an entire industry.

Construction workers are routinely killed by a similar level of ‘local incompetence’, where’s the outrage over that? We can’t let another worker ever go down into another trench ever again!

I’m not trying to minimize in any way the seriousness of what happened, but accidents happen through negligence in every industry. But because this involves a gun and a famous actor it sure seems folks have lost perspective on the entirety of the situation.


Tony.
1-When you handed a firearm it's YOUR responsibility to check it , PERIOD. Anyone with 1/2 a brain knows that. 2- You NEVER point an weapon at anything or anyone unless you plan on killing them. Baldwin pulled the trigger and killed that woman. I'm not buying any of these lame excuses.
Mike
 

Scott_650

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Really? The armorer loaded the gun (or has final responsibility on checking it after it was loaded). Have you ever watched a John Wick movie? Or the TV series 24? Hollywood is far from clueless when it comes to firearms. This was an accident caused by two people who failed at their job. It could just as easily been any number of a different kind of stunts that lead to a death and serious injury. People make mistakes and bad things happen. That doesn’t indict an entire industry.

Construction workers are routinely killed by a similar level of ‘local incompetence’, where’s the outrage over that? We can’t let another worker ever go down into another trench ever again!

I’m not trying to minimize in any way the seriousness of what happened, but accidents happen through negligence in every industry. But because this involves a gun and a famous actor it sure seems folks have lost perspective on the entirety of the situation.


Tony.
There is a difference - industrial and construction tools are not specifically designed to kill things (and yes, I’m aware that there are numerous firearms also not designed primarily to kill). If we’re going down the equivalency road the deadliest object people come in everyday contact with are vehicles but again, not specifically designed to transform chemical energy into kinetic energy intended to cause trauma. There is plenty of culpability here to go around - Baldwin was depending on his team to do their jobs to ensure everyone’s safety (they failed and share responsibility for the death and injury) however the type of weapon and circumstances are immaterial, the final link in any chain of accountability is the human being who makes the decision to take action. I know that the practical circumstances of this will have a lot of weight - the armorer and AD screwed up big time, there was no ill intent or malice here, and it was an accident. But calling something an accident does not relieve folks of responsibility - accidents don’t just “happen” there are causes and culpability. And I have sympathy for everyone involved (I know someone who killed a person in an accidental shooting - he and both families were never the same) but again, handling firearms, regardless of the when, where and how, entails the handler with a high level of responsibility, a level that the people involved in this incident did not give due consideration to.
 

boatgeek

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1-When you handed a firearm it's YOUR responsibility to check it , PERIOD. Anyone with 1/2 a brain knows that. 2- You NEVER point an weapon at anything or anyone unless you plan on killing them. Baldwin pulled the trigger and killed that woman. I'm not buying any of these lame excuses.
Mike
I respect that #2 is the prime rules of firearms safety. On the other hand, it is flat impossible the way many screenplays are written. How many times does the gun fire directly at the camera? How many times do you have a scene where someone is aiming a gun at another person in the shot?

I'm not saying that there isn't a major safety violation here. I'm just saying that Rule #2 (while critical off set) is also somewhat impractical on set without a fairly major change in how screenplays are written. This fact makes the armorer's job even more critical. It may also argue for never having live ammunition on the set and dealing with muzzle flashes etc. in CGI.

[edit] I didn't really realize until I re-read the thread how much I plagiarized @manixFan here
 
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David Schwantz

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Really? The armorer loaded the gun (or has final responsibility on checking it after it was loaded). Have you ever watched a John Wick movie? Or the TV series 24? Hollywood is far from clueless when it comes to firearms.
The people that are clueless are the ones that think Baldwin had no accountability in this. No matter who hands you a weapon, YOU are the final say on it being safe or not! Attitudes like this are exactly how this happened. Again, sorry people were hurt.
 

MikeT

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I respect that #2 is the prime rules of firearms safety. On the other hand, it is flat impossible the way many screenplays are written. How many times does the gun fire directly at the camera? How many times do you have a scene where someone is aiming a gun at another person in the shot?

I'm not saying that there isn't a major safety violation here. I'm just saying that Rule #2 (while critical off set) is also somewhat impractical on set without a fairly major change in how screenplays are written. This fact makes the armorer's job even more critical. It may also argue for never having live ammunition on the set and dealing with muzzle flashes etc. in CGI.
LOL, " the way screen[lays are written" are you kidding? .Spin it anyway you like it was a total screw up A to Z and cost a life. "How many times do you have a scene where someone is aiming a gun at another person in the shot?" Two that I'm aware of , but that's makes it OK? Interesting that the same Hollywood that is behind disarming you and me is just fine with this.
Mike
 

manixFan

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1-When you handed a firearm it's YOUR responsibility to check it , PERIOD. Anyone with 1/2 a brain knows that. 2- You NEVER point an weapon at anything or anyone unless you plan on killing them. Baldwin pulled the trigger and killed that woman. I'm not buying any of these lame excuses.
Mike
You are aware the police and military often do 'live fire' training where they use marker bullets or other low power rounds and literally SHOOT AT EACH OTHER using real firearms?


The marking rounds are designed to be fired from actual service weapons (with a conversion kit installed) and include a washable dye to 'indicate lethality'

"The patented, reduced-energy, non-lethal cartridges leave a detergent-based, water-soluble color-marking compound. The visible impacts allow accurate assessment of simulated lethality."

"This is the only system that allows officers to use their own service weapons in safe, force-on-force exercises against living, breathing, motivated human beings who can actually shoot back!"


So literally, police officers and military teams are pointing their own service weapons at other trainees and shooting them. The guns are supposed to be fitted with a conversion kit but still, it appears these folks aren't following your rules.

I'm not saying that the actor doesn't have responsibility, or that we should absolve anyone of responsibility. It's a horrible, tragic, senseless, needless death and injury. But to jump on a bandwagon and start throwing out accusations and 'truthisms' without taking into account the circumstances that it was literally a movie about gun fighters, is just ridiculous.

Again, I'm not trying to be flippant nor deflect blame. But at some point, you do have to trust the folks you hired for a job to do it correctly. Shooting a movie scene involving guns is a special circumstance where the normal rules of gun handling are set aside for the sake of realism. There is no way every actor handling a gun can be an expert or even know how to check some weapons or rounds to see if they are safe. They rely on the folks hired to do that job to make sure things are safe, just as you do for any of the myriad things that we trust others to do properly on our behalf.
LOL, " the way screen[lays are written" are you kidding? .Spin it anyway you like it was a total screw up A to Z and cost a life. "How many times do you have a scene where someone is aiming a gun at another person in the shot?" Two that I'm aware of , but that's makes it OK? Interesting that the same Hollywood that is behind disarming you and me is just fine with this.
Mike
Ok, there it is. You are making this a political issue rather than one regarding the actual facts and circumstances at hand. Based on that, I have to bow out. But to say you've only ever seen two scenes where someone is pointing a gun at someone else in the shot is more an indication of the types of movies you watch than the reality of movies and TV shows.


Tony

PS: To expand your horizons, watch at least one of the John Wick movies

Bowing out:
 
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Scott_650

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You are aware the police and military often do 'live fire' training where they use marker bullets or other low power rounds and literally SHOOT AT EACH OTHER using real firearms?


"To further enhance the realism of its training exercises, Simunition® has developed simple, inexpensive, easy-to-install conversion kits that allow its SecuriBlank® Quiet ammunition to be fired from the officer's own service weapons"

The marking rounds are designed to be fired from actual service weapons (with a conversion kit installed) and include a washable dye to 'indicate lethality'

"The patented, reduced-energy, non-lethal cartridges leave a detergent-based, water-soluble color-marking compound. The visible impacts allow accurate assessment of simulated lethality."

"This is the only system that allows officers to use their own service weapons in safe, force-on-force exercises against living, breathing, motivated human beings who can actually shoot back!"


So literally, police officers and military teams are pointing their own service weapons at other trainees and shooting them. The guns are supposed to be fitted with a conversion kit but still, it appears these folks aren't following your rules.
Simulated ammo misuse is not a solid example for your position - every participant in any firearms training activity is still, regardless of the situation, responsible for their actions. And the fact that their leadership allows misuse of simulated ammo doesn’t relieve the person pulling the trigger of that responsibility - though it’s reasonable to conclude they (folks in charge) may have a greater degree of the blame if something does goes wrong. Mr. Baldwin accidentally shot someone and killed them and he shares, perhaps the majority of, the responsibility for that outcome. That it happened on a stage in a workplace environment is a mitigating circumstance but not a carte blanche release from basic firearm safety practices.

For me, I don’t care if John Moses Browning himself rose from the dead and handed me a single shot 6mm Flobert parlor pistol with the action open, I’m looking in the chamber to ensure there’s no live round present before I do anything else…
 
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