Despite the implementation of Idaho’s permitless carry law this past July, the number of Idahoans obtaining concealed weapons permits has remained steady.
The new law seems to have had no effect on two trends seen in Idaho in recent years: the skyrocketing number of Idahoans acquiring concealed carry permits and the high number of Idaho women with such permits.
Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said personal protection is the big reason why so many Idahoans obtain concealed carry permits.
“Law-abiding citizens can see the unrest across the nation,” Nielsen said. “If you watch the news every night and see what’s happening in other parts of the country, people start to think the world’s gone crazy and they’re starting to protect their families.”
In December 2012, 85,535 Idaho adults had concealed weapons permits, according to a report published by the Pennsylvania-based Crime Prevention Research Center.
As of December 2016, 131,665 Idaho adults possessed such permits, according to the Idaho Bureau of Criminal Identification. That’s 8 percent of the state’s population and an increase of nearly 54 percent in just 4 years.
“These permits are definitely for handguns used for self-protection,” Nielsen said. “Even though people can carry without a permit, they want to make sure they are legally covered in other circumstances.”
The Crime Prevention Research Center also reported that during President Obama’s time in office, the number of concealed weapons permits issued nationally soared to over 14.5 million — a 215 percent increase since 2007.
Though Idaho adults 21 and older can now carry a concealed weapon in most public places across the state of Idaho without the need for a county-issued permit, most neighboring states require Idahoans to have standard concealed or enhanced permits to pack heat inside their borders.
All that’s required to obtain Idaho’s standard concealed weapons permit is to pass a background check and pay a fee, while the enhanced permit requires that as well as taking a class.
Private firearms instructor Sam Clark of Pocatello owns and is the chief instructor for Idaho Combat Systems.
“The simple fact is that people travel,” he said regarding why Idahoans still obtain concealed firearms permits despite the state’s new permitless carry law. “If you want to carry in another state, you need a permit that’s honored by that state.”
Across the Western United States, Idaho’s concealed weapons permits have reciprocity in Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado. For Idahoans to legally carry concealed weapons in Washington, Nevada, Arizona or New Mexico, an enhanced Idaho permit is required. Only California and Oregon don’t provide reciprocity for any Idaho-issued concealed firearms permit.
Clark added that the number of Southeast Idahoans enrolling in the concealed firearms classes he teaches has remained the same or slightly increased this year compared to 2015. He said the fact Idahoans can now carry a concealed firearm without a permit has had no impact on the number of people taking his classes.
The number of people obtaining permits from local counties has also remained steady despite the new permitless carry law, authorities said. Both the standard and enhanced permits remain popular.
According to the Idaho Bureau of Criminal Identification, 27,633 Idahoans, or 21 percent of those with concealed permits, have the enhanced permits.
Of the total 5,575 concealed firearms permits active in Bannock County, 1,397 are enhanced. In Power County, 111 of the 632 active permits are enhanced, while 692 of the 3,249 active permits in Bingham County are enhanced. Caribou County has 973 active permits, of which 87 are enhanced.
In Franklin County, 202 of the 1,175 active permits are enhanced, while Bear Lake County has 53 enhanced permits out of 744 total, and Oneida County has 111 enhanced permits out of 463 total.
Clark said what was most interesting about the concealed firearms classes he taught this year is the disproportion of men and women.
“In my last class, women outnumbered the men by a long shot,” Clark said. “Out of 12 people, 10 of them were women.”
According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, 33 percent of Idaho concealed weapons permits are held by women.
“Historically, women felt that it wasn’t their place to carry a firearm,” Clark said. “That they didn’t have that empowerment. They felt like it’s a man’s thing to do.”
But that’s obviously changing.
Danica Harker is the lead legal assistant for the Bannock County Prosecutor’s Office and a field staff member of the women’s outdoor advocacy group, Babes, Bullets & Broadheads.
She said she’s not surprised that so many Idaho women have obtained concealed weapons permits.
“It’s about educating ourselves and knowing that we don’t want to become the victim,” Harker said. “There is a rise in crime of women getting attacked. And usually, (women) aren’t as strong as men so we have to find other means to protect ourselves.”
In addition to concealed firearms classes, Clark teaches defensive handgun tactics and Krav Maga self-defense.
“Your personal defense is your responsibility. It’s not the police’s responsibility,” Clark said. “The police don’t actually have a duty to come to your rescue. A lot of people think that’s what they’re there for. It’s not their job to come and save you. It’s their job to enforce the law and collect evidence for prosecution.”
Idaho’s new concealed carry provision allows most Idaho adults to carry a firearm without a permit. However, young adults ages 18 to 20 must still have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Also, residents of other states cannot carry a concealed weapon within any incorporated Idaho city without a permit recognized by Idaho.
Concealed weapons are still prohibited inside Idaho’s schools, courthouses and jails, though school boards can authorize employees to carry firearms in schools. Only those with enhanced Idaho permits can carry concealed weapons on Idaho’s public college campuses, and private businesses may prohibit concealed weapons on their properties.
The cost for a new standard concealed or new enhanced permit is $59.85 and the renewal cost is $37.85. Each permit lasts five years.
Clark said that because Donald Trump was elected president, there has been lots of talk about national reciprocity — meaning concealed firearms permits would be good nationwide rather than just in certain states.
Despite the fact Idaho is now a permitless carry state, Clark said he still anticipates an uptick in the number of concealed and enhanced permits issued in Idaho in 2017.
The enhanced carry course, required for those seeking an enhanced permit, consists of five hours of classroom time with a substantial portion of that being dedicated to use of force and gun laws.
Each participant also fires 100 rounds during the course and learns how to safely maintain and carry a firearm. Clark said he charges about $60 for the course — which is in addition to the actual cost of the permit.
“The first thing we talk about is safety, and the last thing we talk about is safety,” Clark said.
After the permit and the training course, you’re out less than $120. But can you really put a dollar amount to the cost of personal safety? For Idahoans, it doesn’t seem so.