ATF Needs to Answer These Questions Concerning Its ‘Knock and Talk’ Visits with Gun Owners, Says Senator

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is currently going door-to-door in some states to question gun owners about recent firearm purchases.

The Biden administration says the goal of these warrantless “knock-and-talk” visits is to crack down on suspected “straw purchasers,” aka criminals with no disqualifying records that would show up in an FBI background check (NICS check) who buy guns on behalf of other criminals or prohibited persons. 

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) has concerns about these encounters in that they, among other things, may violate law-abiding citizens’ 4th Amendment rights which protects them from unreasonable searches and seizures.

VIDEO: Show Me Your Guns! ATF Surprises Homeowner w/ Warrantless Firearm Inspection

Sen. Ernst expressed her concerns in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland.

“In all of the ‘knock and talk’ incidents brought to my attention, none involved the presentation of a warrant,” wrote Sen. Ernst in the letter dated Aug. 23. 

“Simultaneously, multiple ATF agents, dressed in official ATF gear—including bullet proof vests—did not inform the resident purchaser of the optional nature of his or her participation in brandishing the requested firearm,” she continued.

“The combination of these factors calls into question whether the ATF’s actions are meant to harass or coerce firearm purchasers into, at best, legally questionable ‘investigations,’” said Ernst.

The Iowa Republican asked Garland to answer the following eight questions within the next 30 days:

  1. What criteria does the ATF use to establish probable cause prior to knocking on a purchaser’s door to investigate a potential straw purchase? Is there a written record of this evaluation? If not, why?
  2. Does the ATF obtain a warrant prior to knocking on a purchaser’s door to investigate a potential straw purchase?
  3. How many “knock and talks” has the ATF conducted without a warrant since its July 22, 2021, above referenced announcement?
  4. If not, what is the ATF’s legal basis for investigating a potential straw purchase through a “knock and talk”? How does the ATF ensure a purchaser’s Fourth Amendment rights are protected?
  5. Where a straw purchase check is conducted, is the purchaser informed that they may turn down the investigation? If not, why?
  6. Are ATF agents required to wear uniforms designating the agency when going to the home of and speaking with a firearm purchaser?
  7. What is the current ATF policy regarding what time of day agents may visit the home of a purchaser to investigate a potential straw purchase?
  8. Does the ATF notify local or state law enforcement officials prior to knocking on a purchaser’s door to investigate a potential straw purchase? If not, why?

Last month, video footage recorded on a doorbell camera of a knock-and-talk in Delaware went viral on social media, after investigative journalist Lee Williams, with the Second Amendment Foundation, broke the story.

The homeowner was caught completely off guard by the two ATF agents and the state trooper who showed up on his front porch.

“The reason we’re out here is obviously gun violence is at an uptick. We want to make sure – we’ve been having a lot of issues with straw purchases,” says the Trooper to the homeowner. “One of the things, indicators we get is someone making a large gun purchase, and then a lot of times we’ve been there and ‘Oh, those guns got taken.’”

The trio asked the man to retrieve his recently purchased firearms so they could examine the serial numbers and “scratch them off” their list.

SEE ALSO: Missouri AG Sent Blistering Letter to FBI After Agency Attempted to Illegally Harvest Gun Owner Information 

The homeowner brought out the first gun and the LEOs examined it. Satisfied that it matched their records, they told the homeowner that carrying out the rest wouldn’t be necessary. They then left the premises.

We will have to wait and see if Garland responds to Sen. Ernst’s letter.

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About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 61 comments… add one }
  • STEVE C. September 5, 2022, 1:41 pm

    Dont be intimidated by these fyckjerks!! No warrant, no compliance, get lodt!! It’s that simple Stop living in tyranny and fight back!! Stay armed. Stay informed. Stay alert. Live FREE!

  • Dutch September 4, 2022, 5:46 pm

    I have more important things to do than answer the door for ATF armed and armored agents, like watch reruns of Southpark. THAT is more deserved of MY time.

  • Stan d. Upnow August 29, 2022, 8:20 am

    When making a multiple firearm purchase at one time, the dealer is required to fill-out a form and forward it to the county sheriff’s office; NOT the ATF! I do not believe the sheriff automatically alerts the ATF every time they get such a form, or even at all. So, the question is– Unless the dealer themselves alert the ATF to a suspected or attempted straw purchase, how does the ATF/State Police get their hands on the information?
    And you gotta know that once ATF has their grubby paws on any info like that, it IS going into a national data base that can be accessed by who-knows-who.

    Here’s a scary hypothetical(and very possible) scenario for you:
    The Progressive-Socialist regime in DC, who you already know is rabidly anti-gun, declares a “national health emergency.” Their sychophants in the NIH, CDC, AMA, etc., will back them up with “studies” that show that possessing firearms in the home is the leading cause of violent gun crime in America; this has already occurred. The faux president issues an executive order for a mandatory “buy-back,” or face door-kicking confiscation. But, how will they know who has what, you ask. Simple. They will precede that action by (illegally)requiring all FFL’s to provide access to their digital customer sales records.

  • paul August 28, 2022, 5:01 pm

    Help me out here, Is purchasing multiple fire arms a violation of any statute? If it is why not investigate the seller who sold the firearms? I’m guessing the seller did nothing wrong. Since the seller did nothing wrong why not accuse the buyer? Oh wait, he violated no law as per the seller. So we have federal officers saying since all procedures were legally executed this in and by itself generates a criminal investigation. In the interest of probable cause how many of these investigations turn up violations of the law? We know not many otherwise they would have a warrant. I would tell them I do not trust them and ask them to get a warrant or as he put it get out of here. I would also sleep fully dressed for a few weeks just in case there is a midnight knock at the door.As we all know saying no to the government means your guilty!!!

  • Tat2dMF’r August 27, 2022, 3:31 pm

    Police departments have been doing this to suspected drug dealers forever.

  • Nemo August 26, 2022, 10:05 pm

    The ATF is now going around looking for ‘solvent traps’.

    Who is telling these guys they can act with such impunity? Someone is responsible for issuing the orders.

    This is especially important as the November elections are sure to unseat many Dems and RINOs, and allow for more patriotic legislators who are already raising hell in Congress about ATF’s behavior. This latest move is sure to rile them even more, and cannot be good for ATF’s future. yet they act like they will feel no political pain for their actions…the same way ANTIFA/BLM proved to be safe from legal repercussions for their insurrection. That means protection from the apex of the political food chain.

    • Stan d. Upnow August 29, 2022, 8:34 am

      I never heard of a “solvent trap.” But, the ATF claims it can be converted into a suppressor? So What! Anyone can buy some steel pipe & endcaps from the plumbing dept. at a big box store and make a pipe bomb. Now the jerks at ATF are going after items simply for their “potential” to be modified from their original intended purpose? What outrageous BS!

      • Hondo August 29, 2022, 8:47 am

        Well said Stan , we are officially entered 🤡🌎

  • Rich K. August 26, 2022, 6:53 pm

    If the jackboot brigade shows up, simply refuse to talk to them or allow them inside without a warrant. If they ask you if you have something to hide, tell them, no, you are exercising your right to privacy and if they think you have committed a crime they’d better damn well come back with a warrant, and that they should prepare to be sued. Despite what the leftists want us to think, we, as American citizens, DO have rights!

  • Jack A Furbush August 26, 2022, 5:02 pm

    Anybody that’s OK with this is an idiot pure and simple. What part of the 4A & 5A do you not seem to understand? Law enforcement in any instance must show probable cause and secure a warrant signed off by a Judge to take such actions. People don’t seem to know the difference between laws and rights. Rights do not come from Government. This is clearly a violation of any Americans rights and should be stopped emeditly even if it goes to the SCOTUS. As already posted this is just a test to see what the Government can get away with. The dramatic rise of violent crime in America is a direct result of the intentional effort of Democrats.

  • Matt August 26, 2022, 4:31 pm

    This one is easy. If law enforcement shows up at your house unannounced and unprovoked, don’t answer the door. If they have a warrant or it’s some exigent circumstance, they’re coming in anyway. If not, they have no choice but to eventually leave. There’s no reason to answer the door and potentially escalate the situation.

  • Rob August 26, 2022, 3:42 pm

    This is a conditioning exercise. Conditioning compliance without question. It also builds another ‘list’. Those who are ‘non-compliant’. These guys come across as officer friendly. They are not your friends. Do not consent and do not speak to them without an attorney. Keep your door and your mouth shut.

    • Stan d. Upnow August 29, 2022, 8:38 am


  • Loggerman August 26, 2022, 3:20 pm

    The answer to this outrage is simple. Don’t answer the door.

  • Tomlightfield August 26, 2022, 2:41 pm

    They come to my door I will absolutely tell them to take a hike!!! It’s none of their business!!!!!

  • Jon B August 26, 2022, 2:37 pm

    I am pretty sure the ATF will not being doing this in the mid-west. The sector is under-staffed and has real investigations to keep them busy. And they keep busting actual straw buyers and putting them in jail. But make no mistake, they are very serious about this issue as two LEOs were killed with guns from straw buyers this year.

    • Stan d. Upnow August 29, 2022, 8:54 am

      Best line of defense against a straw purchase is at the gun counter. An experienced salesman at a dealer can spot the tell-tale signs pretty quickly. That’s not always the case, however. I remember one guy who was a regular customer. He started buying Class III guns frequently. We all wondered how he could afford it, as he was a service technician. Long story short– Feds busted him for illegally selling automatic weapons. We heard he was doing at least 10 yrs. in a federal prison.
      Now, that was legit on the ATF’s part, as all those guns were registered under the NFA. One might demand to know why Eric Holder and the ATF agents behind the outrageous & illegal scheme to run guns to Mexico(Operation Fast & Furious) aren’t rotting in prison for life after their scheme resulted in the murder of BP agent Brian Terry. And don’t tell me they were cleared by the DOJ– another white-wash!

      • Hondo August 29, 2022, 10:07 am

        That’s a resume enhancement for democrats, if it was you or me we’d be rotting in prison.

  • Ken August 26, 2022, 2:03 pm

    Question ??? I wonder how many “visits” are made to willy or humbero in the hood or in the barrios ? I betcha not many , if any . they prey on the legal/law abiding folks because they think we are easy prey . in agree if ” you want to see mine , then show me the quan ( the paperwork ) AE the search warrant ” . im 100% legal and i expect the same from any (“encroaching) government agency . ANY AGENCY . god bless america and this great country . LIVE FREE , OR DIE TRYING TO KEEP AMERICA FREE . !!!! AMEN …

  • kjj August 26, 2022, 1:41 pm

    So it begins, the ATF camels nose under the tent. Intimidation by official ATF along with the state patrol to get information that they should have a warrant to get. I look at this as a test run by the ATF to see if there is resistance to there overreach and how much resistance will gun owners put up during gun confiscation which is down the road.

  • Matthew J Nadolski August 26, 2022, 1:00 pm

    Honestly I know first hand how big of an issue straw purchasing really is and I personally wouldn’t take issue with verifying that I still had possession of a multiple purchase. I understand why this bothers people and I’m fine with those people voicing their concerns, but ya.

    However, I would have a BIG ISSUE with these bros showing up in full bro gear, especially with “ATF” on ’em in giant block letters. Please don’t fucking advertise to the neighborhood that I have weapons, have some common goddamn sense please. We’re all supposed to be on the same team, right?

    So why would you be this goddamn obvious when it’s a simple chat? Two dudes in a suit, a local guy in plain clothes for immediate backup / community connection. It’s not hard to figure this shit out you meat brains.

  • John August 26, 2022, 12:20 pm

    Look closely the serial number is micro-stamped under the front sight. Micro-stamping is required here in California

    • Stan d. Upnow August 29, 2022, 9:02 am

      Yeah, it’s Commiefornia. Pretty soon they’ll require anyone obtaining or renewing a driver’s license to be automatically registered as a member of the Progressive-Socialist Party(formerly Democrat Party). Get Out while you can.

  • Steve Strickland August 26, 2022, 12:01 pm

    Such visits are an intrusion upon Americans rights under the Fourth Amendment. Of course, legislation through the judiciary has resulted in the following:

    Searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable.
    Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573 (1980).

    However, there are some exceptions. A warrantless search may be lawful:

    If an officer is given consent to search; Davis v. United States, 328 U.S. 582 (1946)
    If the search is incident to a lawful arrest; United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218 (1973)
    If there is probable cause to search and exigent circumstances; Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573 (1980)
    If the items are in plain view; Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463 (1985).

    They’re using the recent searches under the guise of the third scenario above. Make them get a warrant and then sue their asses if they do.

  • Tina Roberts August 26, 2022, 12:00 pm

    Ask if they have a warrant. If they say No, say have a nice day and shut the door.

    • Stan d. Upnow August 29, 2022, 9:08 am

      Uh, how about you Don’t Open the door?! If you do, they could push their way in and later say you consented to the search. With the door shut(and locked), they would have to break-in. Won’t happen w.o. a warrant.

  • JDub August 26, 2022, 10:58 am

    If you come to my house and expect me to comply, think again. I will kindly advise you to leave and come back with a warrant. I know of several law enforcement personnel who will be much less “diplomatic” with them. This is subtle intimidation, harassment not seen since the last NAH ZZZ regime. Welcome to the Fourth Reich Amerika where your constitutional rights don’t matter and they don’t care.

  • Giovanni August 26, 2022, 10:29 am

    If they come here without a search warrant I’ll slam the door in their faces. I have nothing to hide, and I will not give up my rights, certainly not for Biden’s KGB

    • Roger August 26, 2022, 2:15 pm

      Built you would for a sociopath wanna-be king like trump, who would surely strip away our democracy under his sickness? Another person that cannot see the forrest through the trees, but that is so typical of the mass lemmings under the republican cabal.

      • Hondo August 29, 2022, 7:55 am

        Roger seems to be in over his head in this conversation so he wants to hurl insults. It’s hard to believe in this day in age someone would want to be this wantonly stupid, it’s just sad.

      • Stan d. Upnow August 29, 2022, 9:50 am

        But you, Roger, would for a Communist wanna-be king like Obama, or a demented puppet, like Biden, who would surely strip away our democracy under his sick agenda? Another person that cannot see the forest through the trees, but that is so typical of the mass lemmings under the Progressive-Socialist cabal.

        There, fixed it and countered your perverse TDS.

  • Ken August 26, 2022, 10:24 am

    “Knock and talk” (K&T”); “stop and talk” and “pretext vehicle searches” are three LE technique long used in the drug war. Evidence recovered is admissible in court. All three have been found to be valid by the Supreme Court.

    A pretext vehicle search is when you get pulled over for a minor traffic infraction such as switching lanes without signaling. The officer will then manipulate you into giving consent to search the vehicle. Very common.

    The legality of these types of searches is based your voluntary cooperation and consent.

    Anyone can knock on your door or approach you on the street and ask to speak with you… anyone can.
    A poll taker, a kid selling football team raffle tickets, etc.

    Cops, the court reasoned, have the same right as any other person to K&T or approach you on the street.
    In such cases you have the corresponding option of not opening the door to your dwelling or, if on the street, to ignore the approach… just like you might respond to any other person.

    Your continued participation in the interaction is then “voluntary”…. and not an infringement of your rights.

    At the heart of such “voluntary” encounters is the cop’s manipulation to get you to agree to a search or to make and incriminating statement or to gather enough evidence for a search warrant or an arrest. They are actually trained on how to do so.

    I tell my clients to think of cops approaching them at home or on the street as street bums looking for a handout. In those instances you are not intimidated by the individual and you feel confident enough to ignore the knock on the door or to ignore or reject the approach on the street… and to say, no!

    If you end up in an encounter be polite. Ask (through your home security system) for their card and tell them that you want your lawyer with you when you speak with them. Do not get sucked into an argument about why you need a lawyer… you don’t have to justify that… just keep insisting that you do.

    These encounters depend on your consent and voluntary participation in the encounter. Be smart enough to know your rights and how to exercise them.

    To quote Nancy Reagan… “Just say, no!”


    • Pantexan August 26, 2022, 2:34 pm

      I am not polite to street bums asking for a handouts. They don’t understand polite. The same goes for police and agents.

    • Stan d. Upnow August 29, 2022, 9:29 am

      You are exactly right about that “pretext vehicle search.” I got pulled over by a local cop about a mile from home while driving home from work in the early evening. “Routine stop,” he said. There’s no such thing. After I show him my DL, etc., which he hardly looked at, he asks me what I have in my truck. I tell him nothing of interest to you. He says, “Mind if I take a look?” I tell him absolutely Not! Then he tries to intimidate me by saying he could “call for the dogs” and if they find anything I shouldn’t have, I’ll be arrested and lose my vehicle. I say I Love dogs; bring ’em! He makes a face and I ask him if I’m free to leave. He hands me back my docs and says with a dejected voice, “Yeah, go.”

      Moral of story: Don’t be intimidated by their tactics and give consent. Say as little as possible and be firm, but polite.

  • Eric Holder August 26, 2022, 10:18 am

    Lol! Those “law abiding gun owners”! I love it. Maybe the slogan shot be boot licking gun owners? The problem here is the people not those scabs from ATF or the State A hole. Anyone can knock on a door and make a request. It is up to the people how to respond. Anyone want to change their electric supplier for cheaper energy? I would write more but I am busy selling machine guns at the border, smoking crack and falsefying 4473 forms. Wonder if they have knocked at Hunter Biden s door?

  • LJ August 26, 2022, 9:38 am

    The ‘storm troopers’ are coming … except in the ‘hood’.

    • Ed August 26, 2022, 10:46 pm

      Yes, and stop and frisk was never a thing.

  • Dr Motown August 26, 2022, 8:09 am

    Since when does an “email from my field supervisor” constitute a valid reason to search my belongings? If you have probable cause that I committed a crime, get a warrant and you can check any serial numbers you want that are listed🤷🏽

  • ej harbet August 26, 2022, 8:05 am

    now that scotus has finally clarified what the 2nd amendment means in terms of most gunlaws the fjbaft should be disbanded and at taxes go to irs(armed equal to citizens) and explosives goes to a US Marshall’s division.

    oh while we’re at it the fbi is disbanded and us Marshall’s does that too!

    let them join the kgb and gestapo in the dustbin of history

  • Robert August 26, 2022, 7:53 am

    No warrant then GTFO my property

  • Johnny Proctor August 26, 2022, 7:40 am

    No registry my a$$. I’m so tired of politicians trying to limit the very reason Americans were granted the rights to firearms by our founding fathers. Douche canoe democrats have been attempting to revoke that right for years, and now they’re ramping up their attempts. I am a combat vet of three deployments. How DARE they behave like this.

    • Shanz August 26, 2022, 12:59 pm

      I have never served in the military but I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for you guys. There you are sacrificing life and limb only to come home to Democrat and Rhino politicians shitting all over liberty.

    • Stan d. Upnow August 29, 2022, 9:36 am

      Combat vet? Uh oh, you are at the top of their list of potential “domestic terrorists.” It’s true.

  • Johnny Proctor August 26, 2022, 7:39 am

    No registry my a$$. I’m so tired of politicians trying to limit the very reason Americans were granted the rights to firearms by our founding fathers. Douche canoe democrats have been attempting to revoke that right for years, and now they’re ramping up their attempts. I am a combat vet of three deployments. How DARE they behave like this.

    • jimmy August 26, 2022, 4:46 pm

      another IGNORAMUS with the spewing of his rights this and his rights that…No, partner, obviously you never studies high school civics/politics/history in a fair review so you think you are Owed this and that – typical ! but no, the founding fathers thought the rank and file were IDIOTS (and mostly they were right)…oh boo, the sacrred gun rights are challenged a bit – GROW-UP, it ain’t about you and people like you!! Have your little pouts elsewhere

      • Hondo August 29, 2022, 8:03 am

        Jimmy your writing style indicates you didn’t do well in high school, you should have paid more attention and kept your mouth shut.

      • Stan d. Upnow August 29, 2022, 9:41 am

        Hey Jimmy, want to see a Real “ignoramus?” Go look in the mirror.

        BTW, your spelling, grammar, & syntax indicates your English skills haven’t advanced beyond the 3rd-grade.

    • Sam August 27, 2022, 2:37 am

      Woah, woah, woah! The Bill Of Rights is a list of rights we already possess. That part of the Constitution only prohibits our government from infringing on those rights. Of course, you can see how well that is working out. Now work out what happens to the other nine when the second is judicially null and void.

  • Hondo August 26, 2022, 6:34 am

    The ATF can fuck right off, you will get nothing from me voluntarily .

  • Richard A Baker August 26, 2022, 6:08 am

    Bidens baby steps toward abolishing the 2nd amendment, along with the rest of the current constitution. Socialism, here we come.

  • Rlee8541 August 26, 2022, 6:03 am

    Just purchase one pistol/revolver, 14 days apart and try to purchase from different licensed dealers. If you buy two or more handguns at the same time, that FFL dealer is REQUIRED to fill out a multi -purchase ATF form. Then that form is faxed to the ATF and your local county/sheriff from the FFL dealer you paid for the multi gun purchase from. Wham-O, they know who you are and where you live and which multi guns you purchased. The 4473 needs to be accurate with ALL correct personal, identifiers. If it doesn’t match up, they will bring the full weight of the federal government upon you. They are not leaving out the FFL dealer/point of sale and are looking for the smallest mistakes to fine the FFL dealer and revoke or suspend that FFL. This is a complete start of a war with the federal government vs. we the people. Soon to be united we stand, divided we fall. Sad, disappointed and ready to defend my childrens future from these tyrant’s!!! Use the rule of law of this Country and apply the laws in prosecuting liberal judges and prosecutors that refuse to do their jobs by allowing violent repeat offenders to prey on the honest Americans!!! Carry all the time and everywhere you go.

  • robert August 26, 2022, 5:15 am

    welcome to amerika with a stolen election our freedom is on shaky ground.

  • Blue Dog (he/him) 🧢 August 25, 2022, 7:58 pm

    Why give the ATF a mandate and not give them the authority to follow up on it?

    Start with people who lie on 4473s – a lot of folks pull Hunter Biden out to the front on this issue (accused, innocent until proven guilty but the story seems credible) , but it happens. A lot.

    If we are serious about combatting gun running and gun walking, we need to get more proactive with solutions.

    • Kc (sire/your majesty) August 26, 2022, 9:25 am

      So they’re clearly not concerned with the issue, especially after having walked weapons into Mexico and then having the attorney general “decline” to testify in front of congress. Some animals are more equal than others, and some civil rights are more equal than others, apparently.

    • D.J. August 26, 2022, 10:19 am

      The question is , whom is it that “ gives the mandate “ ,
      and also “ gives the authority to follow up on it “ ?

      I doubt it’s Congress . Do we just allow bureaucrats to
      make these decisions , unaccountable to The People ?
      Do you support unelected persons dictating , mandating ,
      enforcing , and executing laws / mandates , not founded
      by the congress of the United States ?

      If you do , you show a remarkable grasp of history , as well
      as reading comprehension .

    • Mike V August 26, 2022, 10:42 am

      “Why give the ATF a mandate and not give them the authority to follow up on it?”

      Good point. Take away the mandate. You can mark the day on your calendar that you accidentally were sideways correct, better than every other take at that…

    • imagon August 26, 2022, 11:44 am

      I think YOU should Or probably already go out on ‘man dates’! That’s not a law you ignorant, uneducated clown!

  • GomeznSA August 25, 2022, 12:39 pm

    30 days to cover up likely misconduct on the part of the agents oops I mean a ‘reasonable’ cause for likely an illegal and/or unconstitutional (4th Amendment) fishing expedition. I’d have given them one week at most. The only way to get these outlaws under control is to shed the brightest possible light on such actions. Disbanding the rogue agency would be better………………..

    • Richard August 26, 2022, 7:56 am

      I’ve had my visit back in July. I’m just a collector and had an ATF agent at my door.

      • Wade August 26, 2022, 10:10 am

        Did you report the visit to the organizations that need to know? Such as the NRA, GOA, etc?

      • Stan d. Upnow August 29, 2022, 10:08 am

        ATF agent to colleague: “Bob, what’s a ‘Martini-Henry’?”

        Other ATF agent: “Why, that’s an automatic ‘assault weapon’!”

        Richard: “No, it’s not! It’s an antique firearm not subject to the same regulations.”

        ATF agent: “You’re under arrest for violation of the NFA.”

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