It's a common knee-jerk reaction, officials have said: After a mass shooting like Friday's in Newtown, Conn., citizens scramble to take security in their own hands, with many seeking permission to carry hidden handguns in public places.
So, while pro-gun politicians across the country pushed to allow school teachers to carry guns in class, scores of locals this week took to sheriffs' offices in search of concealed-carry handgun permits.
"We usually do maybe 10, 13, 16 a day. Now we've been at 34. Today I'm at 26," Corrine Peters, a secretary handling carry permits at the Centre County sheriff's office, said mid-afternoon on Tuesday.
With most local counties offering same-day permit pickup and others sending them to applicants within days of their requests, there will likely be dozens, even hundreds, more people carrying hidden weapons in the region by week's end.
"We had 10 more people yesterday than normal," Huntingdon County Sheriff William Walters said, attributing the uptick to Friday's massacre at an elementary school by a gunman who then took his own life. "When something like this happens, we notice it."
Under Pennsylvania law, a concealed-carry permit is required to keep a hidden firearm in a public place. With a permit - accessible at a county sheriff's office with a driver's license photo, two references, a small fee and a state background check - a gun owner can keep a pistol hidden under clothing or inside a car. The permit is good for five years.
As of last December, 786,000 Pennsylvanians held active permits - the most of any state behind Florida, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. As a "shall-issue" state, Pennsylvania authorities are mandated to provide permits unless there are red flags in criminal or mental health history.
Sheriffs and permit officers from several counties said they consistently receive more applications after mass shootings occur, even when concealed-carry laws wouldn't have stopped the massacres.
In all but two states, public schools, like Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, forbid concealed weapons for both students and teachers.
Walters said he routinely asks Huntingdon County applicants how many times they've felt they needed a hidden weapon. Most admit they haven't, he said, but add that they want one "just in case [they] ever need it."
In the wake of the Newtown shootings, some legislators in other states have said they want to relax schools' gun and concealed-carry restrictions in hopes of arming teachers.
During a Fox News interview Sunday, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said the Newtown massacre could have been prevented by arming the school principal.
"I wish to God she had an M-4 in her office locked up so when she heard gunfire ... she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said.
Legislators in South Dakota and Oklahoma this week proposed allowing teachers to carry concealed handguns, as well.
Published research doesn't clearly indicate whether concealed-carry laws reduce violent crime; gun control supporters and opponents have both cited conflicting evidence.
"People become concerned, obviously," Bedford County Sheriff Charwin Reichelderfer said. The county has had more applications this week, with a high number of statewide requests apparently jamming the background-check system, he said.
Fears that President Barack Obama could push for stricter gun laws have driven some of this week's applications, Reichelderfer said.
"The president's starting to talk gun control and people are concerned about that," he said, noting that similar runs for firearms and carry permits followed both of Obama's electoral victories.
A sheriff's deputy in Blair County said there has been a small increase in applications this week, attributing the change largely to hundreds of permit renewal notices that officers mailed out recently.
While the concealed-carry uptick has spanned several counties - officials in Centre County said it's the most extreme they've seen yet - sheriffs in the region said they expect the concern to die down this week.
"It doesn't ever seem to last long," Walters said.