The number of people who have applied to carry a concealed weapon in Colorado this year has almost doubled compared to last year.
Between January and May, the number of applications recorded across the state was 31,901, up from 16,574 that had been submitted at the same time last year, according to statewide numbers from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Certified trainers who teach classes required to get a permit say people flocking to the classes are often motivated by mass shootings. Politicians say politics and the fear that stricter gun control laws may eventually prohibit gun ownership also play a role.
"Any time the Democrats like Obama, or Hillary Clinton now, start talking about guns, people get worried that their Second Amendment rights might be infringed," said Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley. "They're doing this to beat the rush."
Concealed permit numbers have spiked higher in the past. According to the CBI numbers, in July 2013, as a set of gun control laws were going into effect and recall efforts of Democratic legislators were under way, more than 14,000 people applied for concealed carry permits.
But this year's stretch of increased applications is the only time there have been more than 5,000 applications per month for five consecutive months based on available records from CBI that date back to 2008.
In March, the Adams County sheriff's office had to add an extra day, up from two days a week, to be able to process 120 additional requests per week plus renewals because of the demand.
In Adams County, the office has processed 1,349 new requests and 320 renewals between January and May, up from 785 new requests with an additional 371 renewals for the same time in 2015. In Douglas County, staff processed 1,845 permit applications this year through the end of last week, up from 921 in the same time last year.
Gun control advocates say the numbers give a glimpse into how many people might be carrying guns, something they worry is becoming too common.
"Our concerns are that it just makes guns more prevalent in everyday walks of life," said Eileen McCarron, president of Colorado Ceasefire Legislative Action. "It's just changing our public life of how we view one another with suspicion that people are bringing in arms to places you wouldn't expect them to."
Riley Bowman, a certified instructor and vice president of training and operations for USA Firearm Training, says that even when the number of people taking classes increases, the mix of people is consistent.
"If we have a class of 10 students for instance, we'll have two or three that are experienced shooters, two to three are average shooters and then the rest will be very new, like newbies," Bowman said. "That's a pretty typical mix. That just seems to hold true."
In his classes, Bowman always asks students why they want to carry a concealed weapon.
Bowman says he remembers the answers from the beginning of the year well, when CBI numbers showed the start of a sharp increase.
"I can tell you exactly at that time what was weighing heavy on people's mind was Paris," Bowman said. "Almost unanimously for a lot of people what was on their mind was these horrific attacks that were all over the news and that happened really in ways that people don't expect."
He said for a lot of people, the cluster of attacks before the holidays — the Paris attacks, the San Bernardino shooting and, locally, the Planned Parenthood shooting — were too much in a short period of time.
"People want to have the right to self-defense," Cooke said. "They think if they or someone had a gun they might have had the opportunity to kick out the shooter to prevent as many deaths or to at least protect themselves."
Many people faced with an active shooter are likely to freeze before they pull out a weapon, making it more difficult to protect themselves or others, McCarron said. She said her group worries about the possibility of accidents or unplanned shootings, not just maliciously planned attacks.
"The more guns are on people's hands, arguments that get out of hand can become shootings," McCarron said. "Guns are so handy and so readily available when emotions get out of control."
CBI data on gun sales show only a slight increase compared to last year. In May, there were 25,450 recorded firearm transactions in Colorado, up from 25,000 in May 2015.
The increased numbers in permit applications are expected to continue as the Orlando nightclub shooting again prompts gun control discussions.
Bowman, the firearms instructor, said that in the days since that shooting, instructors have been seeing a growth in interest.
"We average probably half a dozen or so people signing up each day, but (Friday) we had 16 or 17. It was the same the day before and the day before that," he said. "It's about double to three times the folks that are interested in training and taking classes."