Thousands more women are arming themselves

Tracy Romzek practices at the range with her husband and children

The number of people applying for concealed pistol licenses has taken off in the past few years, and many of those who are arming themselves are women.

Thousands of women in Michigan are choosing to carry a firearm.

You would never know Tracy Romzek from Buckley grew up afraid of guns, but she confessed it was a fear of the unknown.

â??I was scared of them! I was very scared of guns,â?? explained Romzek. â??Guns kill. That's kind of the mindset I had before. I think it's really important. There are so many of us that are afraid of guns because we're not around them.

In the past year alone, Romzek has gone from never holding a gun, to taking a course to get her concealed pistol license, or CPL.

â??My oldest daughter and my mom both thought I was a little crazy because I did jump in with both feet,â?? joked Romzek.

She is not the only one jumping in. Women across the nation are heading to the shooting range to learn more.

National Rifle Association certified instructor Lindy Evans said she has noticed an increase in women attending her classes.

â??As they become more informed and more aware there are classes out there and there are more women involved in the classes, that opens the door for them to want to come and participate,â?? said Evans.

So how many women are we talking about?

The Wexford County clerk estimated there being a 30 percent increase in CPL applications this year.

In Cheboygan County, fewer than fifty women applied in 2012. From January to September of 2013, 74 women had already applied.

The Benzie County sheriff noticed the trend too.

â??We've seen an increase since the beginning of the year of people requesting CPLs, and a good majority of them are women,â?? said Sheriff Ted Schendel.

On a larger scale, the numbers statewide are growing, too.

In 2011, 15,814 women in Michigan applied for their CPL.

The next year, another 21,359 women joined them.

From January to September of 2013, the state has issued 26,040 permits for women.

The license is valid for five years, so those numbers are relatively cumulative. That means in the past three years, around 63,213 women have gotten their concealed carry permit.

Why are women choosing to pack heat?

â??Never bring a knife to a gunfight,â?? explained Sheriff Schendel. â??You always want to have superior firepower and protection. A gun is a great equalizer for a woman, without a doubt. Doesn't matter how small you are, or how frail you are, if you're holding a weapon you can be like the giant.

â??I think as women, it's really important for us to not only with firearms, learn to defend ourselves and protect ourselves for our family and loved ones,â?? said Romzek.

Romzek is passing the word on. Her mother is interested in joining her at the range, and her oldest daughter just bought her first handgun.

One of Romzek's concerns is for her children's safety. Now she and her husband are passing along the lessons they've learned.

â??It's kind of addicting. It's empowering. It's a lot of fun,â?? said Romzek. â??I think the course is beneficial even for people who don't intend to follow through and get their CPL. Just the education you obtain by doing that class is very beneficial.

Romzek attended a two day, NRA certified class at the Kingsley Sportsman's Club put on by Great Guns in Acme. There are other courses that cover all of the material in one day.

The course focuses first on gun safety, like learning the golden rule: always keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction, and keeping your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot.

â??Once you start being educated about it, you realize it's not the gun, it's the person holding the gun. By being educated and learning and by teaching our kids, I feel much more comfortable with firearms in general,â?? said Romzek.

While in class, you also learn the legal aspects of concealed carry, like where you're allowed to take your weapon and what justifies lethal force. If you fear for your life, severe bodily injury, or rape; or if any of those are directed toward someone else, you can use the gun to stop the threat.

Instructors said avoiding the situation is always best.

â??If you sense or see something escalating, my best advice to you is if you can look for an escape route and get police to help you, that's the best course of action,â?? said Evans.

Carrying a gun isn't for everyone.

CPL instructors stressed the magnitude of carrying of a gun, and recommended some soul searching before strapping on a weapon.

â??There are some lifelong repercussions that follow if you make that choice to use that as your tool,â?? cautioned Evans.

If you can handle the responsibility, many people said a firearm is a last resort that you don't want to regret not having.

â??It's a situation where you never plan on using it, but if you're in that situation and you don't have it and you wished you had itâ?¦ Oh my gosh. You always want to have it available so if that one situation does happen, it's there available to save your life,â?? said Schendel.

â??You hope that you would never have to use it to defend yourself, but in the event that you do, you know how to do so properly,â?? said Romzek.

There is a written test to take in order to pass the course. Then participants can head to the county clerkâ??s office to file the application.