Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Some Are More Equal Than Others

How does gun control work in other countries? There is one case with which I am familiar. In the Philippines where gun ownership is theoretically highly restricted, a private permit to possess a firearm is a highly coveted status symbol. It's a society where some are more equal than others and that extends to firearms. According to the BBC:

There are more than 800,000 licensed gun owners in the Philippines, but millions more firearms are owned illegally. ... Although carrying guns in public is already illegal, there are a multitude of exemptions. Movie stars, judges, politicians and those living under death threats are all currently exempt.

Not only does the number of unlicensed weapons dominate the distribution, but these are preponderantly used in the commission of crimes. "Interior Secretary Jose Lina said earlier this month that unlicensed weapons were involved in 85% of gun-related crimes in the Philippines."

Much of the motivation for getting a private firearm in is rooted in a distrust of the police. In the BBC article, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo expresses the desire to restrict gun ownership to the police and the military. But "when asked about corrupt policeman linked to crime gangs, she promised to "jail the rascals in uniform". Very few people believe that assurance, least of all "movie stars, judges and politicians" and so they continue to get their private weaponry.

The degree to which private gun ownership represents a social and financial investment is reflected in the opposition of legitimate gun importers to the registration of unlicensed firearms in amnesty programs. An amnesty would destroy the monopoly rents of legal importation and diminish the status symbolism of owning a firearm.

In a statement sent to media, the Association of Firearms and Ammunition Dealers (AFAD) said the government's gun amnesty program would deprive the government of much-needed revenues “that should have otherwise been derived from duties and taxes had the guns been legally imported.”

“It encourages unscrupulous individuals to smuggle firearms into the country with the knowledge that the government will eventually implement similar gun amnesty programs,” the group said.

One prominent gun control advocate, a columnist for Leftist newspaper, told her critics that if they wanted home defense, they should simply hire an armed security guard. It was a "let them eat cake" moment, but it did point out the vast role that private security has in that country. One tourist reported his amazement at the ubiquity of security guards on his blog:

Despite the friendly nature of most people I’ve met here so far, there have also been moments where I haven’t felt terribly safe at all. That security guards seem to be present everywhere you turn does nothing to make one feel any safer – quite the opposite. Some of them carry nasty looking batons. Most of them are also packing holstered pistols. But some of them even carry pistol-grip shotguns. Shotguns? What’s going on here?

7/11 stores have armed security guards. Nearby to the hotel I’m staying in (Richmonde Hotel), the Mega Mart shopping mall has security guards at every entrance. They’re not just there for looks either – they do indeed pat you down as you enter and it gives one a feeling of insecurity, as opposed to what I imagine is the desired effect. I was so surprised by this that I took a photo of one of the entrances (pictured below) and believe me when I say it didn’t make me popular. In fact, the male security guard made a grab for my camera, although the determined look of resilience on my face deterred him from taking it further. I asked why it was necessary for such stringent security measures and he refused to answer my question. I suppose they don’t really want tourists to know how unsafe Manila can be to visit.

Not just the 7/11 or mall but the bank branch, pawnshop, restaurant, hospital, gated community entrance and apartment building. Lots of places. And remember, that's just the licensed stuff. The net effect is that while the 2nd Amendment doesn't exist in the Philippines, in many places the actual density of firearms is quite high. The upside, if you are looking for it, is that it would probably be impossible for a single demented person to run rampage through a shopping mall without being drilled in short order by someone with a gun.

The ideal situation would be one in which absolutely nobody owned a gun. Then nobody would need to own one. It's an amazing but true fact that in pre-War Manila, the police went on their patrols unarmed, like the British bobbies of an earlier period. The War and the Huk Rebellion and rising poverty after Independence changed all that. Today, "gun control" in that society must really be recognized for what it is: gun redistribution. With millions of firearms already in circulation, gun control becomes closely associated with politics and even class warfare.

None of these observations is directly related to events at Virginia Tech, but they may provide some perspective.


Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

My first time in Manila I was somewhat taken aback by the security, but the fact I saw much the same in European & Middle Eastern airports had accustomed me to it.

In addition, I have been around guns my whole life so I do not necessarily see them as scary things.

Your point about the police and the AFP is well taken. I trust the police here in Appleton and all around, but I do not trust they can get to my house in time to defend my wife and I from attack. In fact, we pretty much prevent the police from doing anything but taking statements from witnesses and looking for clues to crime.

Unless, the police can more resolutely intervene to stop crime and there are enough to ensure very rapid response time we need to take at least some responsibility to make sure we do not become victims.

4/17/2007 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

Gun Control and Other Delusions

From Dr. Sanity:

Paranoia Strikes Deep

“This is the same powerful agenda that has pulled the left away from reason, truth and reality. Bill Whittle made a profound observation about those people who prefer to ignore Lee Harvey Oswald and subscribe to more complicated JFK assassination conspiracy theories: They are Oswald.

Likewise the left has become the Palestinians. They identify with the Arabs. That is the psychological basis of their unholy alliance with the Islamists and jihadists.”

4/17/2007 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

"Fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom"

Proverbs (I think) but the meaning is clear. If you have no concern for the consequences of your actions you never have to make a rational and thoughtful decision.

The Ancient Philosophers saw right and proper education of youth as perhaps the most important function of a civil society. Good and bad. Right and wrong. Now, we ignore 2,500 years of human learning and experience and wander the hallways asking why things don't work like they should?

4/17/2007 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

I often wonder why the US is the exception to the norm in so many ways.

4/17/2007 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger amr said...

My experience is limited to Mexico and Europe where police and para-military units are armed with automatic weapons at major facilities. In Mexico they are more common at such places as major jewelry stores and banks in tourist areas. Having been around firearms my whole life and served in the military, I am not too concerned and I’m actually reassured by the government’s desire to protect the tourists. I have friends who have been horrified to see police or soldiers with M16s in the streets of Mexico; they of course are from that horribly violent USA where automatic firearms are not normally in view. They would really freak out to see the picture we have of my wife and I on either side of a Mexican sailor armed with an M16.

Americans had better get used to it, because if terrorism becomes more common place in the US, open carrying of automatic weapons by police will become the norm, if we have any sense. And CCW is very much on the rise in all but the North East and California. It’s a shame it wasn’t legal at VT.

4/17/2007 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

The ideal situation would be one in which absolutely nobody owned a gun.

Are you sure? I see the alternative to gun ownership to be the domination of a class of men schooled in the use of swords (and horses) -- samaurai, knights, sipahi, et cetera. Before guns, the closest social equivalent to widespread gun ownership was the massed spear formation (phalanx or pike wall), and perhaps the archer; political systems are often reflections of military technology.

The one historical event that turned me against gun eradication was what happened in Japan. I don't see disarming peasants as a social good if that also means they can be killed on sight for looking at a samaurai warrior the wrong way. I don't regard leaving people defenseless against box cutters to be an improvement over a Swiss-style requirement that every citizen be armed.

4/17/2007 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The Unmentionable "I" Word:
(it's not Imus)
AP: Britain Stops Using 'War on Terror' Phrase

LONDON (April 17) - A member of Tony Blair 's Cabinet on Monday brought out into the open a quiet shift away from the U.S. view on combatting extremist groups, acknowledging that British officials have stopped using the expression "war on terror " favored by President Bush .

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn, a rising star of the governing Labour Party, said the phrase strengthens terrorists by making them feel part of a bigger struggle.

"In the U.K., we do not use the phrase 'war on terror' because we can't win by military means alone, and because this isn't us against one organized enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives," Benn said.

He said the real struggle pits the "vast majority" of the world's people "against a small number of loose, shifting and disparate groups who have relatively little in common apart from their identification with others who share their distorted view of the world and their idea of being part of something bigger."

The terrorist threat facing Britain - starkly revealed by the July 7, 2005, transit attacks that killed 52 London commuters - made officials realize the limitations of an abstract phrase like "war on terror."

"In the U.K. we can't consider the domestic problem with terrorism to be a war where you must be on one side or another," he said. "It requires a much deeper sensitivity than that."

In his speech, Benn urged Americans to use the "soft power" of values and ideas as well as military strength to defeat extremism.

4/17/2007 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Frog Man said...

OK, let's go back to Thomas Hobbes 101. Life in the state of nature is nasty brutish and short. Being the biggest, meanest, best armed dog confers no real advantage, because the smaller, weaker ones can dry-gulch you when you have your pants down. Therefore, men who wish to live to be middle-aged surrender power to the Leviathan, giving the state the monopoly on violence.

Civilization does not come without its discontents. The government is often corrupt and unjust, and abuses its monopoly, or, as in the Philippines, does not hold up its end of the bargain, forcing people to fall back on the older, more reliable but less scalable strategies of personal and collective self defense, the family, the clan.

The Second Amendment, more than any of the others, arises from mistrust of government. I think we spend plenty on cops and soldiers to fight terrorism, drugs and poor people, and still they can't be everywhere at once. The most telling argument I have seen up here is that it makes no sense to forbid gun possession on campus if the larger society is armed to the teeth. I, like most people, made it through four years of college without getting shot once. I am not at all sure I would feel safer with any of you yahoos packing heat in the row behind me.

In opposition to the doleful example of the Philippines, perhaps we should consider Switzerland, where everyone learns to handle firearms safely during their compulsory military service at 18. There's a gun in every household in Switzerland, yet we never hear of schoolyard massacres there. What's the difference? A government that operates within an effective social consensus. It's a necessary evil. Read Oakley Hall's "Warlock," http://www.amazon.com/Warlock-York-Review-Books-Classics/dp/1590171616/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-0739274-8998414?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1176848890&sr=8-1 a novel of ideas dressed up as a Western.

Guns don't kill people. Idiots with guns kill people. It is a misinterpretation of the Second Amendment to allow any idiot the right to all the guns he wants. And now we see the consequences.

4/17/2007 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger pst314 said...

"I am not at all sure I would feel safer with any of you yahoos packing heat in the row behind me."

I could make a few points about what the Second Amendment says, but there's no point in starting a conversation with an excitable boy who jumps into a civil conversation by calling everyone else "yahoos".

4/17/2007 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

frog man,

“Idiot” – A natural fool, or fool from birth; a human being in form, but destitute of the reason, or the ordinary intellectual powers of man."
___American Dictionary of the English Language (1828). Noah Webster

As understood by the Founders, idiots were not covered under the Second Amendment.

4/17/2007 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

Oh, per the English Declaration of Rights (1689) all law-abiding citizens were.

4/17/2007 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger Stephen Renico said...

red river said: I often wonder why the US is the exception to the norm in so many ways.

It's because of the 200 year history of westward expansion, both before and after the Revolution, through hostile and dangerous territory.

People often couldn't rely on anyone to protect them but themselves, and as they settled their future generations kept guns as their ancestors did.

The guns of today are echoes of the settlers and pioneers.

4/17/2007 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Sounds just like Mexico.

4/17/2007 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The Second Amendment might have something to do with it.

4/17/2007 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

"The Second Amendment might have something to do with it."

It's a response, not a cause.

Gun control advocates tend very much to be like the drunk on his hands and knees looking for his lost car keys. Not because it's where he lost the keys, but because the light is better there.

Trying to change behavior by attacking misused tools is a case of barking up the wrong tree. Especially when the laws in question are aimed at the law abiding; that being easier than trying to deal with the violent offenders.

4/17/2007 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Nagasaki mayor dies after being shot

Mr Ito's death comes as a shock to a nation where there are very strict gun control laws and where attacks against politicians are rare.

Police arrested Tetsuya Shiroo, 59, a senior member of a local gang affiliated with Japan's largest crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi Gumi, and seized a revolver he had with him.

Mr Ito's predecessor was also shot and seriously injured in 1990 by a right-wing group member after making comments that Emperor Hirohito should be held liable for war responsibilities.

Strict gun controls
Japan has very strict gun control laws and firearms are mostly in the hands of "yakuza" gangsters or hunters.

4/17/2007 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

Returning to actual idiocy, as both Dr. Sanity and Bill Whittle have observed, there is societal mental illness running rampant in America. For evidence, consider the following quote. I predict more of this can be expected in the days to come.

“The News from VA goes on, nonstop, as if there is no other concern. While in Iraq twice that many are killed each day, on average. Day after day, for months on end, with no clarity of purpose, either.

Young people of the same age, in US uniform, are killed there each day. About 60 a month, two times the body count of Virginia Tech, for 48 months, now.

Over the weekend, in Iraq, two professors were killed, on their way to class.”

4/17/2007 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

The ideal situation would be one in which absolutely nobody owned a gun.

Only as long as you were the biggest, toughest, meanest SOB on the street.

I suppose some people really do think that "survival of the strongest" is a good state of affairs.

4/17/2007 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger Frog Man said...

The word "idiot" has an older meaning, too, from the Greek "idiotus," one who stands apart from the polis, and does not participate in the life of the community.

Perhaps "yahoo" was a poor choice of words for an excitable boy who would bring a weapon to class and wait with itchy trigger finger for that once-in-a-lifetime chance to defend his classmates and the prof from an armed idiot bent on mayhem. I knew there was a reason I always sat in the back row.

Once the Indians were all killed and sent off to reservations, Americans were left with their guns in their hands. The curious thing about the Second Amendment is that it begins not with the assertion of the individual's right to keep and bear arms, but with the necessity of a well-regulated militia for the security of a free state.

4/17/2007 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

"Frog Man" - The only thing that itches on me is my head while I scratch it to figure out what you meant.

You might as well have said the blue cow jumped over the green cheese and made more sense.

4/17/2007 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, that was a horrible thing they did, killing those poor Indians and THEN sending them off to reservations.

4/17/2007 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

allen obviously feels that some lives are more equal than others.

He fails to explain why the deaths of 60 US military men & women each month, for 48 months, is less newsworthy, less soul numbing, than the deaths of 32 students, once.

As if the lives of the GIs have less value. That my friends is not just idiotic, it's crass and low class.

As if the life of Damian Lopez Rodriguez, 19, of Tucson, killed in Baghdad on April 6, 2007 has less worth than a college students.

Now allen sounds like JFKerry. Demeaning the sacrifice of US soldiers. They are lower class than VA Tech students. Not as nearly as smart, nor as worthy of equal air time.

4/17/2007 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

frog man,

If one were an idiot, i.e. not belonging to the polis, then, one was not a citizen. Indeed, one might be a barbarian. Did either the Greeks or the Founders create law for idiots and/or barbarians, save by way of limitation?

4/17/2007 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger lugh lampfhota said...

I don't care how Froggy feels about me owning weapons. But I do care how Hillary and her soon-to-be-Stalinist fellow travelers feel. And the feeling that I want them to feel is fear. Fear that if they attempt to impose tyranny that me and a few million others will rise up into well armed militias and send them scurrying to more fertile lands.

Hobbs was clear that we could choose to leave state of nature to live under state of law. But state of law only exists so long as the leviathan is benevolent and provides security. Once the sovereign is corrupt, our founding fathers stated that we have a duty to overthrow tyranny. Hence the second amendment.

I will defend my right to keep ALL of my constitutional rights. Once the second amendment is gone, all of the others are just words on paper.

4/17/2007 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger java_thread said...

These postings about gun control reminded me of an article from way back in the early 80's (Esquire Magazine, article "Letter from an angry reader").

As luck would have it the article is available on the Internet:


The article mentions the hostage crisis with Iran and a war in Afghanistan -- topics back in the news today.


"What is true is that we are entering a time of vast restratification. The United States is becoming more European...but it is a Europe of a different century. We are moving toward a culture in which we'll have cooks, chauffeurs, maids, carpenters, brewmasters, vintners, industrialists, bankers, machinists, hat makers, shopkeepers, and kings and queens of a sort. And, of course, we'll also have highwaymen, cutthroats, and thieves. Think of it in terms of a vast panorama, a huge cross section much like the—world Balzac,, Hugo, and Dumas described. Think about Dickens. Read Weber's The City. Read Pirenne's The Economic and Social History of Medieval Europe. None of this is new. What is new is that we're experiencing it. What was new was the social structure in America of the past three or four decades, which has collapsed.

To have any kind of culture or civilization in a world like this, it is going to be necessary to stop talking about things like prisoners' unions and start talking about the concept of crime and the definition of the word "criminal."

It would be nice also to talk about police. But if you'll read these books, you'll find very little mention of police. What you will find are numerous references to people who wore swords and pistols whenever they went anywhere."

4/17/2007 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger lugh lampfhota said...

I just finished reading Kagan's "The Coming Anarchy". Kagan describes a world of gated communities and hired security that sounded very similar to Wretchard's description of Manila. There are places that one dare not go in American cities without security and there are growing numbers of gated communities, some with hired security. Will America look more like Manila in the coming decades? Kagan suggest so.

My son-in-laws father lives in Jahor Baharu (just outside Singapore) and was beaten an robbed by a gang. This thuggery is becoming more prevalent and the police say they can't be everywhere. But gun ownership is forbidden so the police suggest that you cover up and take your beating as best you can. State of law indeed.

4/17/2007 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Let's try to pay Damiam Lopez Rodriguez the respect he deserves:
He died for you, me and Mr Maliki.

In close up All of 19 years of age

4/17/2007 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

An American soldier killed in the line of duty may not be rationally compared to an engineering major killed by a homicide. For one, the risk of death or injury is part of the profession, for the other, death and injury is aberrant. Most BC readers can readily make the distinction.

4/17/2007 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

Of course, most BC readers are not committed to undermining American foreign policy.

4/17/2007 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger 2164th said...

There is a huge difference. Those students were in school, where they chose to be. Young GI's of the same age are in combat outfits in war zones, where they choose to be. Everyone wearing a uniform knows the risks. Sitting in a lecture hall at a college in Virginia does not have the plausible risk of being shot. It is within that implausibility that the difference rests.

4/17/2007 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The ideal situation would be one in which absolutely nobody owned a gun.

Sure. Unfortunately ever since Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden and Cain pulled his little stunt, we no longer live in an ideal world. Where societies vary is in their response to this unfortunate reality. Some societies repose their trust in cops, whose profession is probably only a little newer than hookers. In tribal and primitive societies there are tiers of defense against predators. Against casual attack, people in villages rely on their handy machete and the help of the neighbors, who will come running if hailed. You can bet that the family dog, any child over seven and the wife will join in the hostilities against a predator.

Against more serious attacks, many traditional communities had a village watch. We know from history that traditional societies would organize themselves into military formations in case of invasion, to supplement standing armies.

Today, we put our entire trust on professional formations. It is said that in Europe one is not even permitted to defend one's home against a burglar or home invader. You will be punished if you do.

The gun control debate, while not entirely driven by this history, contains its echoes. I would be the first person to wish that guns and all dangers, including poisonous snakes, could be totally abolished. But, sad to say, I realize that when facing an armed man you would be foolish not to be better armed. Guns are a necessary evil. You can argue they are evil and I will agree. But I will argue they are necessary as well.

Often gun control laws are not about solving the problem but appearing to solve the problem. In reality anyone with a little money and determination can buy a gun in the Philippines despite the "gun control laws". If anybody is willing to bet you $10,000 that you can't buy a gun in the Philippines within 72 hours, take the bet. You'll win. Heck, a semi-savvy tourist could probably buy one in under 72 hours.

One could argue that gun control laws under those circumstances are actually a kind of class legislation designed to create tiers of citizenship. Between those who "can" get a gun permit, like the Jim Crow voting laws in the old south with their eligibility requirements, and those who can't. Some are more equal than others.

4/17/2007 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

I guess we can move to a society where everyone has a gun... hollow point rapid repeating fire as well. We can one up the Iraqis who only have an AK47 or two per family and everyone can have an rpg.

Remember, even the depraved can have all the fine toys that the good ole boys have. Heck, why make 'em go to Pakistan to train in force on force combat when they can do it just as easily in the Rockies, or Virginia? Sounds like Walden's pond to me...

4/17/2007 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

Earlier in this thread, a writer made this claim in my name, “allen obviously feels that some lives are more equal than others.” How he arrived at such a monstrosity of prevarication is left to conjecture. That said, missing but a few beats, he then denigrates the dead at VT by writing, “If anything, the young men (sic) that volunteer to go in harms way are MORE* worthy of the air time…They are MORE* deserving, or at least MORE* than equal of both praise and mourning than ANY* of those students.

So, who exactly “obviously feels that some lives are MORE* equal than others”? Projection, denial and delusion are uncomfortable symptoms to watch, informative though they may be. How rational minds can overcome the current endemic pathologies of the age is a question that may have no satisfactory answer. Perhaps, like past great plagues, the insanity will burn itself, self-destructively out, leaving the reconstruction of society to the immune and inoculated survivors. To the theses of Dr. Sanity and Mr. Whittle, it is just such deep-seated, self-loathing hatred that is destroying American, indeed Western, culture. And like Zombies, the infected are impervious to all attempts at remediation.

*Emphasis mine

4/17/2007 09:12:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Consider, that in the US the police are not legally bound to protect you, when you make your weapons decisions.

Wretchard, about half a year ago a an near London killed an intruder with a knife. He is serving time for murder.

4/17/2007 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger Edward Bosco said...

Isn't it a matter of the type of threat? If you've a distributed threat, a distributed response is more appropriate.

Law of War, with mass armies, reflects a hierarchical environment, where combatants are uniformed, and subject to a chain of command. It's built for that environment. It generally has the slower response time of such a hierarchical organization.

In an environment of thugs and terrorists, a distributed threat environment, fluidity and dispersion, and a distributed response might be a virtue. This is an argument similar to vaccination, where not all need to be vaccinated.

Each of these ways of dealing with threats go wrong in their own fashion.

The assumption that there's a risk-free response, a costless in human terms approach, appears to me to drive too much of the argument.

There's co-evolution that goes with these approaches of hierarchical or distributed defense - deference to authority in one or being polite in an generally armed society.

We may be going wrong by tending to implement hierarchical solutions in general. Katrina comes to mind.

4/18/2007 05:35:00 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

Happiness is a warm IED? One in each home = distributive defense?

4/18/2007 07:02:00 AM  
Blogger MacPhisto said...

“I do not love the bright sword for it's sharpness, nor the arrow for it's swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” —The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Every day, I clip a holster to my belt containing a Heckler & Koch pistol. I don't do this because I'm a police officer, or because it makes me feel powerful, or because it provides a means to get what I want by force.

I do it because I'm a Citizen, as opposed to those living in Europe and elsewhere who are merely subjects. Citizens have specific responsibilities, and most important among them is standing for what is right. As Colonel Jeff Cooper once said, "An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it."

4/19/2007 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger boinky said...

the reason you are searched going into a mall is because the Abusayyaf has bombed malls. The reason stores and banks have security guards is to stop petty theives.
And yes, everyone who has any money has a gun.
But if you are found carrying it, you are arrested unless you are a vip.
They are trying to make gun ownership legal for reporters; this week two more were shot down

4/21/2007 12:04:00 AM  

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