A crush of applications to buy firearms in Maryland has overwhelmed the Maryland State Police, which said Tuesday it has tripled manpower to process more than 26,000 applications made in December and January.

Last month alone, 14,000 Marylanders applied to purchase a gun, up from 4,609 in January 2012. The increase is attributed to state and national proposals for tougher gun control laws in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings in December.

The backlog has created a four-week delay in processing the applications. A spokesman, Sgt. Marc Black, said the agency is doing all it can to expedite requests, which are normally processed within seven days. He said the state police want to assure the public that each application is getting a thorough review, as troopers "will not sacrifice safety for speed."