PORTLAND, Maine — Gun advocates and firearms instructors say concerns about crime and personal safety are the reasons for a sharp increase in the number of concealed firearms permits issued by the Maine State Police.

The Maine Sunday Telegram reports that the number of people seeking concealed gun permits from the state police in 2009 was 5,706, an increase of 40 percent over 2008. In Portland, there was a 60 percent increase.

The figures are in keeping with a steady growth over the years in the number of new permits being approved by police agencies.

Jeff Weinstein of the Maine Gun Owners Association and director of FirearmSafety.net says personal safety, especially among women, is a major reason given by students for taking introductory handgun safety courses.