BOZEMAN — The number of Montana residents with concealed-weapons permits has more than doubled since 2008.
The Montana Department of Justice says that about 38,000 people have concealed-weapons permits as of Oct. 5. That's up from about 18,000 in 2008.
Applicants for a concealed-weapons permit must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen and a Montana resident for at least six months. The permits don't allow concealed weapons to be brought into government buildings, financial institutions or where alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed.
The Gallatin County Sheriff's Office said that applications in the county spiked earlier this year.
Sheriff Brian Gootkin said the spike appeared to be related to possible federal gun control legislation following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. A gunman entered the school in December and killed 26 people, 20 of them children.
"I think it was fear of gun control in Washington, D.C.," Gootkin said. "People were scared."
Through August, the county has taken in about $52,500 in concealed-weapons permit applications and renewals. That's a significant increase from the $32,000 from the previous year.
"It has slowed down so we have been able to catch up, but it's still busy," Gootkin said.
John Betancourt, an instructor with Fortress Personal Defense Solutions, teaches course for people wanting a concealed-weapons permit.
"It never ceases to amaze me how widespread it is," Betancourt said.
Salvador Navarro, owner of Montana Tactical Firearms Instruction near Three Forks, also offers training for those seeking the permit, mostly in Gallatin and Broadwater counties.
"I was sending them hordes of people every week," Navarro said. "And I'm not the only instructor doing this. There was a lot of fear."
Christine Pastrama of Bozeman received her concealed weapons permit about three years ago.
"We had bears and moose and coyotes that lived behind us in the forest," the 62-year-old Pastrama said. "Part of the reason I got (a permit) is I wanted to be able to protect myself. I've never had to use it defensively. It's all just been in sport. It's more for my husband and I to do sport shooting together."