Utah's Bureau of Criminal Identification says applications for concealed firearm permits more than doubled in the first quarter of 2013, a spike it attributed to mass shootings in other parts of the country that led to public debate over gun control.
The surge began in January and peaked in March, when the bureau received 19,193 applications for concealed firearm permits. Typically, the bureau receives 7,000 to 10,000 permit applications a month.
"We had bins and bins of applications during those three months earlier this year," Alice Moffat, bureau chief, told the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee this week.
On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. On July 20, 2012, James Eagan Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70 during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
"We feel that's why we got those numbers there," Moffat said. "And then there was the talk of gun control and that seems to spur people getting their concealed firearm permits."
That has put Utah on pace to receive a record number of permit applications estimated at 135,00 to 140,000 this year, Moffat said. Permit renewals are also expected to more than double.
Utah is one of 19 states that issues permits to both residents and nonresidents; another five states "may" issue permits to nonresidents.
Utah dropped the cost of a concealed firearm permit for Utah residents from $80 to $46 about a decade ago. It charges nonresidents $51 for a permit. Renewals are $15. The permits are valid for five years.
The increase in applications and renewals resulted in a fee surplus of $2.3 million in fiscal 2013, Moffat said. The bureau uses those funds in part to subsidize the cost of processing renewal applications since the $15 charge doesn't cover its expenses.
Of surrounding states that also issue permits to nonresidents, only Idaho's fee for a new permit is lower at $20. Nevada, by comparison, charges $97.50 for an initial permit and $65.50 to renew it.
Over the past three years, 62 percent of those applying for a concealed firearm permit lived outside Utah. Utah's permit is recognized in 35 states. Seventy percent of those who seek a firearms instructor certificate from Utah also come from other states, Moffat said.