The number of women carrying guns is reaching record highs nationwide.
Nearly one in four woman in the United States are packing heat, an increase of 77 percent in just a few years.
Why are so many moms carrying firearms? Rachel DePompa talks to Central Virginia women to see what's motivating them to learn to fire a weapon. Tune in for her special report tonight on 12News at 11.
The blast of a gun was the last thing 70-year-old Joan Herndon ever heard. In October of '95, someone walked into her family store in Buckingham County, robbed and shot her.
"I used to hate guns," said Katherine. For years, the sound of that single blast echoed in Katherine's head. She is Joan Herndon's granddaughter.
"They got less than $200. They shot her with a shotgun and walked out," said Katherine.
The unsolved murder victimized the whole family. It wasn't until Katherine met her husband that she decided to face her fear head on.
"We went out and we shot. And I felt so much stronger than I'd ever felt before," said Katherine. "Like I didn't have to be a victim. I didn't have to become a statistic like my grandmother had to."
More women than ever before are now packing heat. According to a Gallup Poll, in 2005, just 13% of women in the U.S. owned a gun. By 2011, 23% of women had a gun. That's a 77% increase in just 7 years.
"I wanted to start carrying for my protection. My kid's protection," said stay-at-home Louisa County mom Erin Albert.
Erin has two young boys. She's shot guns all her life, owned them for years but only recently got a permit to conceal carry.
"Women can't protect themselves as well without that force," said Erin. "Without that gun... I mean, you're on an equal playing ground if you have that gun," said Albert.
These women tell us protection is their top priority.
"If you're at a gas station and somebody tries to high jack your car with your kids in the back and they have a gun, you have to have a plan," say Albert.
"A man's not always going to be there for you. A lot of women are realizing, as sexual assaults increase, as murders and kidnappings increase, that you're not safe anywhere anymore," added Katherine.
Women are now dominating gun classes nationwide - and not just to learn how shoot or to get a permit.
"They're coming in now, they're taking more of our tactical classes, learning how to move and shoot, learning how to protect a child or a loved one, how to shoot from inside their vehicles in a carjacking situation," said James Reynolds. He's the chief firearms instructor for Proactive Shooters. He and other local gun shops even hold classes strictly for women.
"Women are generally coming in, they're with a clean slate. They haven't learned bad habits, so they're easier to teach and they listen to direction better. They follow everything you tell them, every step of the way," said Reynolds.
For the women we spoke with every shot, every lesson, every time they reload, it's about being prepared.
"It's like having a fire extinguisher. I mean, you have one in your house don't you? You don't think you're going to have a fire, but you're ready in case you do. I don't think something's going to happen to me, but if it does, I'm prepared." said Katherine.