BEAUFORT — State officials say the number of first-time applicants for a concealed weapons permit in South Carolina nearly tripled in 2012.

The State Law Enforcement Division told The Beaufort Gazette http://bit.ly/VsqcPR that 61,766 residents sought for the first time to be able to keep a gun hidden on their person last year. In 2011, the state recorded 24,661 first-time concealed weapons permit applications.

The number of active concealed weapons permits in the state is also rising. SLED had 186,916 permits on file in 2012, a 26 percent increase over the 148,624 permits in 2011.

A SLED spokeswoman refused to talk about any reasons for the increase.

It is not known how many guns are in South Carolina because the state doesn’t require a permit to own a firearm.

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Information from: The Beaufort Gazette, http://www.beaufortgazette.com