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The number of women with a concealed weapons license is on the rise

 Shotguns on display for sale
Sarah Hower
Shotguns on display for sale at the Bass Pro Shops in Gainesville.

One firearms instructor attributes this increase to a rise in crime and a general feeling of discontent with the economy.

Two years ago, a pregnant Florida woman, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, gunned down one of two home invaders who had broken into her Tampa home.

The woman, who had a concealed weapons license, said the men were pistol whipping her husband when she grabbed her legally possessed firearm and fired one round.

The woman, who requested her identity be withheld, is one of the 2.5 million people who have a concealed weapons license in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. As of Feb. 28, one-third of the license holders were women.

Gun safety experts in Gainesville and neighboring communities say they have noticed a significant increase in the last four months in the number of women who wish to obtain a concealed weapons license.

Katelyn Perndoj is a 23-year-old bartender at Miller’s Ale House. She said she wants to make a living, but more importantly, she wants to stay safe.

Woman in a pink blouse and jeans leaning against a gun case
Sarah Hower
Katelyn Perndoj, a 23-year-old server at Miller’s Ale House, is seen here at Harry Beckwith Guns & Range where she will soon take the concealed weapons license course.

“I’m pretty small, so if someone wanted to snatch me it wouldn’t be hard,” she said. “I could try and fight as much as I wanted to, but I just don’t want to be put in a situation where I don’t have a fighting chance.”

Perndoj said she has registered to take the concealed weapons course at Harry Beckwith Guns & Range in late April. The course is all she will need to obtain her concealed weapons license.

“I would rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it,” she said. “It’s a peace of mind kinda thing.”

During the course, which is five hours long, the instructor goes over the laws, the best ways to conceal carry and how to shoot.

“We want you shooting well enough that we can trust you with a handgun at anytime, anywhere,” said Henry Keys, a 24-year-old self-defense and firearms instructor at Harry Beckwith Guns & Range in Micanopy.

Keys said he considers women the fastest-growing demographic in the gun world.

“When I first started working at Harry Beckwith in early 2022, the courses I taught were 7% or 8% women,” he said. “Now, women make up well over 25%.”

He attributes this increase to a rise in crime and a general feeling of discontent with the economy.

Chart shows 71 percent of Florida concealed weapons holders are men, and 29 percent are female

Keys said roughly 75% of the women who register to take the course are 20-29 and African American or Asian. These women cite self-defense as their reason for wanting to own a gun, and the majority know little about firearms.

“They just feel that they are in danger,” he said. “It is important to me that I am able to help them.”

Hunter Thomas, a 23-year-old gun salesman at Bass Pro Shops, agrees.

“I welcome any woman of any race, age or ethnicity to practice their Second Amendment rights,” he said.

Although Bass Pro Shops no longer offers a concealed weapons course, Thomas said he believes the number of women becoming gun owners and acquiring a concealed weapons license has multiplied since he started working for the company two years ago.

“Even as someone with a liberal political perspective, I think that since guns are so widely spread, it’s better for any law-abiding citizen to have a gun,” he said.

Lt. Jimmy Williams has been with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office for 23 years. He encourages women to obtain a concealed weapons license and learn the basics of using a firearm.

“Women need something to equalize their self-defense mechanism,” he said. “Men are typically larger and almost always stronger. I have three daughters and three granddaughters. I don’t ever want any of them, or any woman, to be in a dangerous situation with no way out.”

Close-up of guns in a gun case
Sarah Hower
Smith and Wesson handguns for sale at the Bass Pro Shops in Gainesville.

An estimated 736 million women in the world, almost 1 in 3, have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence, according to USA Facts. Seventeen percent of murder victims in the United States were killed by an intimate partner. Women account for two-thirds of these victims.

Dany Castro went from fearing guns to considering himself a “gun fanatic” in less than two years.

Castro moved from her childhood home in Tampa to her first apartment in Gainesville when she was admitted to the University of Florida in fall of 2020. After one year of constantly feeling unsafe, the 21-year-old sophomore said she decided to apply for her concealed weapons license.

“Before I left for college, I was completely unfamiliar with guns,” she said. “I didn’t grow up in a family with guns. My family didn’t hunt. I knew absolutely nothing about them. Being on my own made me realize how weak and vulnerable I was.”

Boxes of ammunition on a shelf
Sarah Hower
Handgun ammo for sale at the Bass Pro Shops in Gainesville. The top shelf is 9 mm ammo and the bottom shelf is .40-caliber S and W ammo

Castro said obtaining her license has given her a greater respect for firearms. Although she said she prays she never has to use one, she is grateful for the option.

Harley Yost, a 24-year-old University of Florida alumni, said she does not believe a gun would make her feel safe.

“I would opt for a less life-threatening deterrent,” she said. “I’m not saying no women should own a gun, but I don’t think it is your best option.”

Keys said he believes the number of women wanting to obtain a concealed weapons license will continue to grow if more restrictions are created.

“The more restrictions, the more demand,” he said. “Every time there is a new restriction put in place, gun sales and license sales skyrocket. In the circle we are in right now, nobody wants to be the last person with the gun.”

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