The number of people wanting to pack a hidden gun has nearly doubled in Blaine County during the past year.
"We used to do about four a month," said Blaine County Chief Deputy Gene Ramsey. "Now we're up to seven or eight. I don't even want to try to guess why."
Ramsey, who handles the concealed weapons licensing process for the sheriff's office, said about 1,500 concealed weapons permits have been issued in Blaine County. The number does not alarm him because hidden weapons' carriers go through a screening process and are required to be proficient with firearms.
"They are going through a clearance, so you can have a level of confidence that they aren't doing anything illegal and are just exercising their constitutional rights," Ramsey said.
A concealed weapons license authorizes a person to carry a concealed handgun on either their person or in their vehicle. Ramsey said many hunting or gun organizations encourage members to have a permit so handguns can be stowed in vehicles out of sight of potential thieves.
Some people aren't allowed concealed weapons permits, including convicted felons, illegal immigrants, illegal drug users, people under the age of 21, people free on bond, dishonorably discharged military folks or the mentally ill. Conviction of a misdemeanor crime of violence prohibits one from packing a hidden gun for three years from the date of conviction. Conviction of a domestic violence offense, even if it's a misdemeanor, includes a lifetime prohibition from holding a concealed weapons permit.
A complete list of prohibited types of people is available in Idaho Criminal Code 18-3302, the law that authorizes citizens to carry a hidden gun.
There are four basic steps to obtaining a concealed weapons license in Idaho. One must demonstrate proficiency with firearms, fill out an application and clear a screening process, be fingerprinted and pay a fee.
Ramsey said the total cost at the sheriff's office is $55, which includes $20 for the license and $35 for fingerprinting.
Applications are available at the driver's license bureau at the Blaine County Courthouse Annex on First Avenue in Hailey. There's a 90-day waiting period while the application is processed.
Proficiency with firearms can be demonstrated by proof of prior military or police experience in handling guns or by proving completion of a firearms safety or training course. Classes are available through many hunting or gun clubs, through some law enforcement agencies and at many sporting or gun stores.
Ramsey said many states have reciprocity with Idaho regarding concealed weapons permits, but added that it's best to check with another state before assuming an Idaho permit is valid. Also, some cities in other states have gun laws that prohibit concealed weapons.
In Idaho, there are places that guns aren't allowed even if someone has a permit. They include courthouses, public or private schools or locations where school activities are being held. The public is also not allowed to carry guns into a jail.
Permit or not, it's illegal for someone intoxicated to carry a gun.
"We all know that alcohol affects judgment," Ramsey said.
Ramsey said the law is mainly intended for guns, but according to the statute, it applies to "any dirk, dirk knife, bowie knife, dagger, pistol, revolver or any other deadly or dangerous weapon." The law does not apply to "any lawfully possessed shotgun or rifle."
The statute exempts active military personnel and law enforcement officers. Also not required to have a permit are prosecuting attorneys and their deputies, retired police officers and "any publicly elected Idaho official."
A concealed weapons license is also not required for "any person outside the limits of or confines of any city while engaged in lawful hunting, fishing, trapping or other lawful outdoor activity."
"This law was never designed for people going backpacking and putting a handgun in their backpack," Ramsey said.
Terry Smith: email@example.com