Special Report: More women applying to pack heat in Kanawha Co. - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Special Report: More women applying to pack heat in Kanawha Co.

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Anything men can do, women can do better. And according to firearms safety instructor EJ Smith, the adage extends to shooting a gun.

"The men I get in my program, they think they know everything, but they just don't listen," said Smith, who teaches a certified NRA handgun safety class in Charleston. "So they have difficulty keeping up with the females, who don't assume they already know everything and they do pay attention to my instructions."

Smith has taught this class in Charleston for 20 years.

But he's noticed a change in the past few months: more women.

Women made up half of the 15 people enrolled in the safety course last Saturday, with the youngest being 45 years old.

"I'm seeing things I haven't before," said Smith, who is a science teacher at Nitro High School. "More women feel threatened and they're looking to arm themselves."

The courses, which Smith teaches every Saturday, last five hours and cover how to shoot different firearms, load firearms, and carry guns in public.

But what was stopping them from learning before?

"I was raised around guns," said Denise Miller, of Charleston, who was enrolled in the class. "I was always afraid of them."

Miller and her husband, who also attended, keep a shotgun in their home. But Miller said she wanted to learn how to properly use a handgun.

Smith said the number of women interested in guns is due to just more than rising crime--it's a societal shift.

"Women have taken a different role in the past," Smith said. "More of them are becoming the only breadwinner, having to protect the household as well as provide for the household."

Dunbar resident Ann Blevins remembers when a man tried to break into her home during the day while she and her three-year-old son hid inside.

"I was not prepared of what to do," Blevins said. "And I don't want to hurt anybody, but I wanted to protect my little son."

 But some say a fear of guns is only overshadowed by fear of being a victim.

"I think women are a target because most of the time, men think they are petite or easier to overcome," Miller said.

"Even if you're the toughest woman that's out there, you're still perceived as a target," said Smith, who's already taught his seven-year-old daughter the basics of firearm safety.

But the number of law-abiding citizens will always outnumber the criminals.

"These are all people who are trying to do things the right way," Smith said. "Chances are, they're still going to be the victim. "

Which is why some say defending themselves is at least worth a shot.

"Women need to be equal," Blevins said. "I have that right."

A concealed carry permit costs approximately $95 after processing fees.

To obtain the permit, applicants must take a certified safety course.

According to records from the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office, January 2013 saw the highest number of permit applications from women in the past six months.

From January 2013 to February 2013, the department received 104 applications from women.

From August 2012 to September 2012, the department received 38 applications from women.

And between Aug. 1, 2012, and Feb. 1, 2013, the office processed on average 51 applications from women seeking their permit.

The number of applications from men in Kanawha County shows a similar trend but on an even larger scale.

Both Ohio and Kentucky honor West Virginia's concealed carry permit, but each state follows its own set of gun laws.