BARTLETT, TN (WMC-TV) - More and more women - as many as 17 million nationwide - are packing heat to take back their neighborhoods.
In fact, female gun owners make up 40 percent of new participants at a gun safety course at Range USA in Bartlett. Our recent visit to Range USA was also Sarah Wilson's first time to fire a hand gun.
"It's terrifying, but I'm going to get over that," she said.
Wilson said getting mugged at gunpoint was even more terrifying.
"They got out of a car, pointed a gun at me and a girlfriend, and we were mugged," she said. "I got hit in the face with the gun itself."
Now, Wilson says she's done being an easy target, and she's not alone.
Kristen Bauer, an instructor at Range USA, believes crime and a need for protection are the driving forces behind more women signing up to learn how to take aim.
"Women don't want to be victims," she said.
In Tennessee, 14,463 women got licenses to carry handguns last year. The number of women newly licensed to pack heat in Arkansas is slightly higher, at 14,559. Stats are unavailable for Mississippi.
Kyma Collins, who is new to the world of handguns, just bought a Glock 9mm.
"In order for me to have more comfort, I wanted to take a class to where if I got into any situation, I can defend myself," she said.
Collins got the idea to take aim from a girlfriend who already has a permit to carry. But instructors say learning to shoot in the stress free environment of a range is a world away from a real live attack.
"It comes down to practice," Bauer said. "We have a self defense class where you learn how to draw from a holster, and how to draw and fire, so you need to learn that and practice it. That's the only way you're going to be able to do that under stress, under adrenalin, if the person get their hands on you."
And just one day of basic hand gun instructions isn't enough to make these women feel like they could defend themselves if they had to.
Each woman at the range during our visit seemed to have their own personal reason for wanting a gun, but no doubt a desire to Take Back Our Neighborhoods triggered attendance.
"The unfortunate fact is that the bad guys have guns," Wilson said.
Safety classes are required to get a gun permit in the Mid-South. According to the Tennessee Department of Safety, the state issued more gun carry permits to women between the ages of 51 and 55 than any other age group in 2009.
Women from 26 to 30 got 1,280 permits, while women ages 41 to 45 received 1,861 permits.
For more information on gun safety and the women's gun safety course at Range USA in Bartlett, click here.
To read about NRA gun safety rules, click here: http://www.nrahq.org/education/guide.asp