How to Obtain a California Permit to Carry a Concealed Firearm
Penal Code 26150 and 26155 PC

Normally it's a crime to carry either a loaded or an unloaded firearm in public in California.  It doesn't matter whether you are carrying a concealed firearm or one that is openly carried.

Unless you have a permit, publicly carrying a gun in California is against the law... period.

But you may be issued a permit to carry "a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person" if:

  1. You are of good moral character;
  2. Good cause exists for issuance of the license because you or a member of your family is in immediate danger;
  3. You meet certain residency requirements; and
  4. You have completed an acceptable course of firearms training.
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Permits to publicly carry a firearm may be issued by:

  1. The sheriff of a county, pursuant to Penal Code 26150, or
  2. The chief or other head of a municipal police department, pursuant to Penal Code 26155.

Penal Code 26150 and 26155 replaced former California Penal Code 12050, effective January 1, 2012.  Penal Code 12050 was popularly known as California's law against "carrying a concealed weapon"... "CCW" for short.

Technically, Penal Code 26150 and 26155 don't actually license the carrying of concealed firearms.  They cover permits to carry firearms "capable of being concealed on the person."  In other words, they deal with permits to carry handguns in public... either openly or concealed.

However, this law is still often referred to as the right to carry a "concealed firearm" or "concealed weapon."  Accordingly, in this article, we will sometimes use these terms... as well as "CCW"... simply to mean carrying a handgun in public.

Are California's CCW permit laws unconstitutional?

As of early 2014, there is some doubt about the constitutionality of California's laws on CCW permits. This is because  the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has held—in a case called Peruta v. San Diego County—that the“good cause” requirement violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The Peruta case is currently being appealed. So its ultimate impact on the future of concealed carry permits in California is unclear. In this article, we will discuss the current (pre-Peruta) law on concealed weapon permits—while also noting the aspects of that law that may need to change if the Peruta case is upheld.

"We" are Shouse Law Group.  Our lawyers include former prosecutors and cops.  And we understand California gun laws and California knife laws.

Below, our California criminal defense attorneys1 address the following:

1. What is a California permit to carry a "firearm capable of being concealed on the person"?
2. Who may obtain a permit to carry a "concealed firearm"?

2.1. Requirements under Penal Code 26150 and 26155 PC

2.2. "Good cause" for obtaining a CCW permit and the Peruta case

2.3. The scope of the sheriff's / police chief's discretion

2.4. People restricted from obtaining a California
carry permit

3. What is the application process under Penal Code 26150 and 26155 PC?
4. Restrictions under a California firearms carry permit

4.  Restrictions under a California firearms carry permit

4.2. Restrictions and conditions specific to individuals

4.3. Travelling

You may also find helpful information in our related articles on California Firearm Offenses; California knife laws; Penal Code 25400 PC Carrying a Concealed Weapon; Penal Code 25850 PC Carrying a Loaded Firearm; California's Open Carry Laws; Penal Code 29800 PC Felon with a Firearm; Domestic Violence Convictions and Gun Rights; Penal Code 30600 PC Possession of Assault Weapons; Penal Code 16590 PC California's Law Against Generally Prohibited Weapons; Penal Code 21310 PC Dirks and Daggers; Penal Code 18710 PC Destructive Devices; Penal Code 417 PC Brandishing a Weapon; and California's Self-Defense Laws.

1. What is a California permit to carry "a firearm capable of being concealed on the person"?
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A California concealed firearms permit allows you legally to carry "a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed on the person."2

A valid license to carry a concealed firearm prevents you from being convicted of:

As of January 1, 2012, California has no open-carry law.  It is now illegal in California to carry either a loaded or unloaded weapon in public without a carry permit except:

  1. when your pistol, revolver, or other firearm is in:

    • the trunk of the car, or
    • a locked container within the car (excluding the glove box), or

  2. when you are carrying the gun directly to or from the car in a locked container;6

    AND

    you are otherwise legally entitled to own or possess a firearm.7
2. Who may obtain a permit to carry a
"concealed firearm"?

2.1. Requirements under Penal Code 26150 and 26155 PC

When applying for your California permit to carry a concealed weapon, you must prove that:

  1. you are of good moral character,
  2. you have good cause to justify the permit,
  3. you are a resident in the county or in a city within the county...  or you spend a substantial amount of time at your place of business or employment which is located in the county or in a city within the county, and
  4. you have completed an approved firearms' training class.8
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Note that if you live in a county with less than 200,000 people, you can only be issued a "modified" concealed weapons permit.  Still considered a CCW permit, this license allows you only to:

  1. carry a loaded and exposed pistol, revolver, or other firearm on your person,
  2. in the county in which the permit was issued.9

This modified permit only pertains to persons in counties with less than 200,000 people.  If you qualify for a regular CCW permit, these restrictions do not apply.

2.2. "Good cause" for obtaining a CCW permit and the Peruta case

In the past, "good cause" has meant that you can show that:

  1. a clear and present danger exists for you or your immediate family, and
  2. carrying a concealed weapon would mitigate that danger.10

Traditionally, both the sheriff and police chief have maintained that carrying a concealed weapon is a privilege, not a right.  You must therefore meet all their criteria before they will issue you this type of license.

This has been the case for each renewal application as well.  Simply stating that "all conditions under which this CCW permit was originally issued remain the same" does not establish good cause.11 You must present evidence as to why this is the case.

But all that may change in the near future. The “good cause” requirement is currently being challenged, thanks to the federal court ruling in Peruta v. San Diego County. The Peruta case struck down the “good cause” requirement as it was administered by the sheriff of San Diego County.

In San Diego County, concern for one's personal safety, by itself, was not enough to constitute “good cause.” Instead, an applicant for a permit had to show that s/he had a set of non-mainstream circumstances causing him or her to be placed in harm's way.12

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found this requirement unconstitutional. The court declared that the Second Amendment right to bear firearms includes a right to carry firearms outside of one's home. San Diego's “good cause” requirement denies that right to most people—and thus violates the Second Amendment.13

Constitution

Since the Peruta ruling, California counties have seen a spike in applications for concealed weapons permits.14 The Orange County sheriff also announced loosened requirements for permits—instead of good cause, applicants now only need to show that they need a gun for self-defense or personal safety.15

But the California Attorney General's office has filed an attempted challenge to Peruta. The case may be reviewed by either a larger (“en banc”) panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals or, or by the U.S. Supreme Court.  While this appeal is pending, the Peruta ruling will not go into effect--and the law on the “good cause” requirement of Penal Code 26150 PC remains uncertain.16

2.3. The scope of the sheriff's / police chief's discretion

These law enforcement agencies reserve almost exclusive authority to issue or deny California CCW licenses.  The courts will not overturn their decision to deny someone a permit unless the decision is "arbitrary, capricious, or entirely lacking in evidentiary support."17

2.4. People restricted from obtaining a CCW permit

Certain classes of people are prohibited from possessing, owning, purchasing, or receiving firearms in California.  This means they are also prohibited from obtaining firearm carry permits.

Such people include (but are not limited to):

  • people who have been convicted of a felony or certain types of misdemeanors under Penal Code 29800 PC, California's "felon with a firearm" law,
  • people who are addicted to narcotics,
  • people who lose their gun rights due to a domestic violence conviction, and
  • people who have been diagnosed as mentally ill.18
3. What is the application process under Penal Code 26150 and 26155 PC?

There are typically three phases involved in the application process for obtaining a California permit to carry a firearm:

  1. The paper application.  All issuing agencies...that is, your local county sheriff or the chief or head of your local municipal police department...require that you submit a uniform application to carry a firearm in California.Fees for the initial application or the renewal application may vary depending on the issuing agency but average between $100 and $200.


  2. The interview process.  This is when the issuing agency will discuss:
    • your need for the license,
    • your criminal history, and
    • the consequences of publicly carrying a firearm.
  3. This second phase is also when they will take your fingerprints.  And some agencies may require a second interview.

    Img-gun-fingerprint
  4. The psychological evaluation.  This third phase does not apply to all counties / cities.  If conducted in your area, you will be required to undergo psychological testing.  Your fee for this evaluation will not exceed $150.
4. Restrictions under a California firearms carry permit

4.1. Legally prohibited acts

If you successfully obtain a California CCW permit, it only applies to "pistols, revolvers, and other firearms that are capable of being concealed upon your person."  This means that a license to carry a concealed gun does not excuse acts prohibited under:

Img-assault-weapon-rifle
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Nor does it normally protect you under Penal Code 417 PC California's law against brandishing a weapon.21 Penal Code 417 makes it a crime to withdraw, exhibit, or use a gun in a threatening or angry manner.

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However, if you can prove that you only brandished a gun in self-defense, California's self-defense laws may excuse your conduct.22

As San Jose criminal defense attorney Jim Hammer explains23 :

"The reason you obtain a CCW permit in the first place is to protect yourself.  So its stands to reason that if you use your gun, it is because you did so in self-defense.  Depending on the circumstances, California's self-defense laws may excuse your otherwise criminal conduct."

4.2. Restrictions and conditions specific to individuals

Each person's CCW permit is specific to that individual.  Some of the restrictions / conditions that may be written into your license include (but are not limited to):

  • authorizing you to carry only specifically designated firearms that you own, or
  • authorizing you to carry a firearm only during certain times or in certain locations.24

Whatever your restrictions are, you must abide by them in order to keep your license.  If circumstances change, you are free to seek an amendment to your permit from the issuing agency.25 If you do not abide by the conditions, your permit can be revoked.

4.3. Travelling

Some states have reciprocity with others, which means that they will recognize an out-of-state CCW permit.  California is not one of them.

Certain states may recognize your California firearms carry license.  Others may not even require you to hold a permit to carry a concealed firearm.

Because these laws vary by state, it is a good idea to check the local laws before attempting to cross state lines with a firearm.

Additionally, the Transportation Security Administration and airlines have strict rules relating to travel with firearms and ammunition.  It is recommended that air travelers check the TSA and applicable airline websites for details.

Call us for help...
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Shouse Law Group does not handle any matters regarding gun rights, restoring gun rights, or obtaining a CCW permit. We offer this page for information only.

If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code 26150 and 26155 PC obtaining a CCW and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys are available to answer any questions with respect to Nevada's laws on carrying concealed weapons. For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.26

Legal References:

1 Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

2 California Penal Code 26150 PC -- Concealed weapons permits.    (a) When a person applies for a license to carry a pistol,revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon theperson, the sheriff of a county may issue a license to that personupon proof of all of the following:
(1) The applicant is of good moral character.
(2) Good cause exists for issuance of the license.
(3) The applicant is a resident of the county or a city within thecounty, or the applicant's principal place of employment or businessis in the county or a city within the county and the applicantspends a substantial period of time in that place of employment orbusiness.
(4) The applicant has completed a course of training as describedin Section 26165.
(b) The sheriff may issue a license under subdivision (a) ineither of the following formats:
(1) A license to carry concealed a pistol, revolver, or otherfirearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
(2) Where the population of the county is less than 200,000persons according to the most recent federal decennial census, alicense to carry loaded and exposed in only that county a pistol,revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon theperson.

California Penal Code 26155 PC -- Concealed weapons permits.    (a) When a person applies for a license to carry a pistol,revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon theperson, the chief or other head of a municipal police department ofany city or city and county may issue a license to that person uponproof of all of the following:
(1) The applicant is of good moral character.
(2) Good cause exists for issuance of the license.
(3) The applicant is a resident of that city.
(4) The applicant has completed a course of training as describedin Section 26165.
(b) The chief or other head of a municipal police department mayissue a license under subdivision (a) in either of the followingformats:
(1) A license to carry concealed a pistol, revolver, or otherfirearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
(2) Where the population of the county in which the city islocated is less than 200,000 persons according to the most recentfederal decennial census, a license to carry loaded and exposed inonly that county a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable ofbeing concealed upon the person.

3 California Penal Code 25400 PC.
(a) A person is guilty of carrying a concealed firearm whenthe person does any of the following:
(1) Carries concealed within any vehicle that is under the person's control or direction any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capableof being concealed upon the person.
(2) Carries concealed upon the person any pistol, revolver, orother firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
(3) Causes to be carried concealed within any vehicle in which theperson is an occupant any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capableof being concealed upon the person.
(b) A firearm carried openly in a belt holster is not concealedwithin the meaning of this section.

4 California Penal Code 26010 PC -- Carrying a loaded firearm in public.   Section 25850 does not apply to the carrying of any handgun by any person as authorized pursuant to Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 26150) of Division 5.

5 California Penal Code 26350 PC.
(a) (1) A person is guilty of openly carrying an unloadedhandgun when that person carries upon his or her person an exposedand unloaded handgun outside a vehicle while in or on any of thefollowing:
(A) A public place or public street in an incorporated city orcity and county.
(B) A public street in a prohibited area of an unincorporated areaof a county or city and county.
(C) A public place in a prohibited area of a county or city andcounty.
(2) A person is guilty of openly carrying an unloaded handgun whenthat person carries an exposed and unloaded handgun inside or on avehicle, whether or not on his or her person, while in or on any ofthe following:
(A) A public place or public street in an incorporated city orcity and county.
(B) A public street in a prohibited area of an unincorporated areaof a county or city and county.
(C) A public place in a prohibited area of a county or city andcounty.

6 California Penal Code 25610 PC.
(a) Section 25400 shall not be construed to prohibit anycitizen of the United States over the age of 18 years who resides oris temporarily within this state, and who is not prohibited by stateor federal law from possessing, receiving, owning, or purchasing afirearm, from transporting or carrying any pistol, revolver, or otherfirearm capable of being concealed upon the person, provided thatthe following applies to the firearm:
(1) The firearm is within a motor vehicle and it is locked in thevehicle's trunk or in a locked container in the vehicle.
(2) The firearm is carried by the person directly to or from anymotor vehicle for any lawful purpose and, while carrying the firearm,the firearm is contained within a locked container.
(b) The provisions of this section do not prohibit or limit theotherwise lawful carrying or transportation of any pistol, revolver,or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person inaccordance with the provisions listed in Section 16580.

7 Penal Code 16750(a) -- As used in Section 25400, "lawful possession of thefirearm" means that the person who has possession or custody of thefirearm either lawfully owns the firearm or has the permission of thelawful owner or a person who otherwise has apparent authority topossess or have custody of the firearm. A person who takes a firearmwithout the permission of the lawful owner or without the permissionof a person who has lawful custody of the firearm does not havelawful possession of the firearm.

8 See same.

9 See Penal Code 26150 and 26155 PC -- Concealed weapon permits, endnote 2, above.

10 Gifford v. City of Los Angeles 88 Cal.App.4th 801, 803.  ("... ‘good cause exists if there is convincing evidence of a clear and present danger to life or of great bodily [harm] to the applicant, his (or her) spouse, or dependent child, which cannot be adequately dealt with by existing law enforcement resources, and which danger cannot be reasonably avoided by alternative measures, and which danger would be significantly mitigated by the applicant's carrying of a concealed firearm.' The Police Department stated that it ‘recognizes that [Penal Code section 12050 PC, now codified in PC 26150 and 26155] requires the issuance of licenses to persons of good character who have good cause to carry a concealed firearm for the defense of themselves or others or in pursuing their livelihood.'")

11 See same at 806.  ("We cannot say that the denial of Gifford's license fell beneath that standard. Gifford's application contained a single statement about good cause, that ‘All conditions under which this CCW was originally issued remain the same.' The statement is vague and general, so that the request for further information which would enable the Police Department to evaluate the application can hardly been deemed arbitrary or capricious. Nor can the denial of the license when further information was refused.")

12 Peruta v. Cty. of San Diego (9th Cir. Feb. 13, 2014) No. 10-56971, slip op. at 6-7.

13 See same, slip op. at 55. ("[T]he Second Amendment does require that the states permit some form of carry for self-defense outside the home.")See also same, slip op. at 69. (". . . San Diego County's "good cause" permitting requirement impermissibly infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense.")

14 Applications for Concealed Gun Permits Surge in California, CBS Los Angeles, Mar. 12, 2014.

15 Sheriff makes it easier for concealed weapon to be legal, The OC Register, Feb. 19, 2014.

16 California Concealed Gun Ruling Put on Hold by Appeals Court, Business Week, Feb. 28, 2014.

17 Gifford v. City of Los Angeles, endnote 10 above, at 805.  ("In ordinary mandamus proceedings such as this one, courts may exercise a very limited review of a public agency's action, and may merely determine whether the agency's action was arbitrary, capricious, or entirely lacking in evidentiary support.")

18 See Attachments 1-3 on the California CCW permit application.

19 California Penal Code 30600 PC.
(a) Any person who, within this state, manufactures orcauses to be manufactured, distributes, transports, or imports intothe state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or whogives or lends any assault weapon or any .50 BMG rifle, except asprovided by this chapter, is guilty of a felony, and upon convictionshall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) ofSection 1170 for four, six, or eight years.
(b) In addition and consecutive to the punishment imposed undersubdivision (a), any person who transfers, lends, sells, or gives anyassault weapon or any .50 BMG rifle to a minor in violation ofsubdivision (a) shall receive an enhancement of imprisonment pursuantto subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of one year.
(c) Except in the case of a first violation involving not morethan two firearms as provided in Sections 30605 and 30610, forpurposes of this article, if more than one assault weapon or .50 BMGrifle is involved in any violation of this article, there shall be adistinct and separate offense for each.

20 California Penal Code 16590 PC -- As used in this part, "generally prohibited weapon" means any of the following:

(a) An air gauge knife, as prohibited by Section 20310.
(b) Ammunition that contains or consists of a flechette dart, asprohibited by Section 30210.
(c) A ballistic knife, as prohibited by Section 21110.
(d) A belt buckle knife, as prohibited by Section 20410.
(e) A bullet containing or carrying an explosive agent, asprohibited by Section 30210.
(f) A camouflaging firearm container, as prohibited by Section24310.
(g) A cane gun, as prohibited by Section 24410.
(h) A cane sword, as prohibited by Section 20510.
(i) A concealed dirk or dagger, as prohibited by Section 21310.
(j) A concealed explosive substance, other than fixed ammunition,as prohibited by Section 19100.
(k) A firearm that is not immediately recognizable as a firearm,as prohibited by Section 24510.
(l) A large-capacity magazine, as prohibited by Section 32310.
(m) A leaded cane or an instrument or weapon of the kind commonlyknown as a billy, blackjack, sandbag, sandclub, sap, or slungshot, asprohibited by Section 22210.
(n) A lipstick case knife, as prohibited by Section 20610.
(o) Metal knuckles, as prohibited by Section 21810.
(p) A metal military practice handgrenade or a metal replicahandgrenade, as prohibited by Section 19200.
(q) A multiburst trigger activator, as prohibited by Section32900.
(r) A nunchaku, as prohibited by Section 22010.
(s) A shobi-zue, as prohibited by Section 20710.
(t) A short-barreled rifle or short-barreled shotgun, asprohibited by Section 33215.
(u) A shuriken, as prohibited by Section 22410.
(v) An unconventional pistol, as prohibited by Section 31500.
(w) An undetectable firearm, as prohibited by Section 24610.
(x) A wallet gun, as prohibited by Section 24710.
(y) A writing pen knife, as prohibited by Section 20910.
(z) A zip gun, as prohibited by Section 33600.

21 California Penal Code 417 PC(a)(2) -- Every person who, except in self-defense, in the presence of any other person, draws or exhibits any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, in a rude, angry, or threatening manner, or who in any manner, unlawfully uses a firearm in any fight or quarrel is punishable as follows: (A) If the violation occurs in a public place and the firearm is a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person, by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than three months and not more than one year, by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment. (B) In all cases other than that set forth in subparagraph (A), a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than three months.

22 See same.  See also Judicial Council Of California Criminal Jury Instruction ("CALCRIM") 3470 -- Right to Self-Defense or Defense of Another (Non-Homicide):  The defendant acted in lawful (self-defense/ [or] defense of another) if: [1] The defendant reasonably believed that (he/she/ [or] someone else/ [or] <insert name of third party>) was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury [or was in imminent danger of being touched unlawfully]; [2] The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; AND [3] The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.

See also CALCRIM 505 -- Justifiable Homicide: Self-Defense or Defense of Another:  The defendant acted in lawful (self-defense/ [or] defense of another) if: [1] The defendant reasonably believed that (he/she/ [or] someone else/ [or] <insert name or description of third party>) was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury [or was in imminent danger of being (raped/maimed/robbed/ <insert other forcible and atrocious crime>)]; [2] The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against that danger; AND [3] The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.

23 San Jose criminal defense attorney Jim Hammer uses his inside knowledge as a former San Francisco Deputy District Attorney to defend clients accused of violating California's firearms laws throughout the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Berkeley, Marin County, and Oakland.

24 California Penal Code 26200 PC.

(a) A license issued pursuant to this article may includeany reasonable restrictions or conditions that the issuing authoritydeems warranted, including restrictions as to the time, place,manner, and circumstances under which the licensee may carry apistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed uponthe person.
(b) Any restrictions imposed pursuant to subdivision (a) shall beindicated on any license issued.

25 California Penal Code 26200(f)(1) -- A person issued a license pursuant to this section may apply to the licensing authority for an amendment to the license to do one or more of the following: (A) Add or delete authority to carry a particular pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person. (B) Authorize the licensee to carry concealed a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person. (C) If the population of the county is less than 200,000 persons according to the most recent federal decennial census, authorize the licensee to carry loaded and exposed in only that county a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person. (D) Change any restrictions or conditions on the license, including restrictions as to the time, place, manner, and circumstances under which the person may carry a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.

26 Please feel free to contact our Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Daria A. Snadowsky for any questions relating to Nevada's laws on carrying concealed firearms. Their Nevada law offices are located in Reno and Las Vegas.

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