The Ada County Sheriff's Office last week moved its permit station to a larger room. The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office recently expanded the days and times it accepts applications.
Both counties would like to add staff to help with the booming demand, but it's not in the budget.
"It is amazing. I have heard every county has had an influx in permits," said Lt. Stu Miller of Kootenai County.
Across the state, counties are reporting double to triple the number of applications received so far this year compared to the same period last year.
In Ada County in January, 145 people applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon. In March, 1,054 people applied for the permit, a 627 percent increase.
Both Canyon and Twin Falls counties already have processed more permits this year than in all of 2011.
The spike comes on the heels of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre and the national debate over gun control.
"We attribute a large portion of this increase to the uncertainty and concern about possible new legislation and its ramifications for gun owners," said Twin Falls County Sheriff Tom Carter.
Kootenai County has received 859 permit applications so far this year. It received 1,948 applications all of last year. Miller attributed the increase there to concerns about personal safety and possible changes to gun laws.
Statewide concealed permit numbers for this year are not available because Idaho is switching databases. In 2011, the state had 63,349 active permits; that number increased 32 percent to 83,535 in 2012, according to Idaho State Police.
A SECOND WAVE
County officials expect to see a new wave of applicants when the state's enhanced permit becomes available July 1. This optional new license requires additional training but makes it more likely that an Idaho permit will be recognized by other states.
This week, the Ada County Sheriff's Office moved its concealed weapons permit station from the lobby and added a person to the staff, in part to improve the application process and to accommodate increased activity.
During Thursday's lunch hour, a steady stream of people applied for a concealed weapon permit. Applicants are fingerprinted and must show proof of gun safety training. The county sends the permit application to the state, which does a background check and, if approved, issues the license.
'TRAINING IS THE DEFENSE'
Longtime gun owner Ron Miller of Boise stopped at the Ada County office Thursday to apply, something he said he has been meaning to do for years.
He said he doesn't plan to "carry 24/7" but wants to make sure he is complying with state law when he transports a gun in his vehicle, or when a situation arises in which he wants to carry his gun concealed.
Miller, who said he taught his children how to use guns safely, noted that weapons education is vital: "The training is the defense, not the weapon."
Boiseans Bernhard Redlich and Lori O'Leary also were applying for permits on Thursday. Like Miller, they said they have had this on their to-do lists but don't plan to carry regularly.
Both like to travel in the backcountry and want to carry a gun in case they encounter predators or other dangers.
Redlich and O'Leary said they appreciated the training they got to apply for the permit, which taught them about gun safety and state law.
"I learned a lot about proper gun handling," said Redlich.
Said O'Leary: "I just like having the added protection."
Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell