CHARLOTTE, N.C. — According to data cited by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, women made up about 50 percent of all gun buyers between 2019 and 2021.
Larry Hyatt, owner of Hyatt Gun Shop in Charlotte, saw that trend since the pandemic.
"They run businesses. They are out at night. They stay in hotels, are driving, and they feel scared and vulnerable," Hyatt said. "Not only do you have the criminal that wants their money, but you have a sexual predator."
Shalanda King was at Hyatt Guns Friday morning to buy her first 9-millimeter handgun.
King told WCNC Charlotte, "These last few years in North Carolina has gotten really crazy with the violence, the crime rates, the gun violence. So I'm just protecting me and my family at all costs."
The first-time gun buyer, who runs her own hair styling business, said she knows what it's like to be a victim of property crime.
"Somebody broke into my car recently," King said.
Josette Chmiel, a firearms instructor for 12 years, said she's also noticing her classes are filling up with women.
"During COVID, I have never seen an increase and a rush from the women to join and protect themselves," Chmiel said. "A lot of women just lived in an isolated world where they felt safe. Then, they see stuff happening in their own neighborhoods."
She added issues of social injustice and domestic violence are other reasons women are choosing to take responsibility for their own safety.
The instructor who also teaches less lethal classes said, "It's not a phone call away. It needs to be on our hip and ready to deploy, should we be put in a position where our life Is at risk."
According to a study published in June of 2022 by the Annals of Internal Medicine, their conclusion states, "Living with a handgun owner is associated with substantially elevated risk for dying by homicide. Women are disproportionately affected."
Nevertheless, King said the feeling of empowerment is undeniable.
"It's a good feeling to feel protected, to be able to protect yourself," she said.
Judging by the shop's sign-ups for training, Hyatt said that's exactly what women are looking for.
"Our classes years ago, when concealed carry came out, you'd have 20 people in the class, you'd have two females," he said. "Now you'd have 20 people in classes, 17 females or 16. So it's quite a change, quite a change."
For a list of the training classes offered by Hyatt, click here.