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WYOMING, Mich. (WZZM) -- Some call a firearm the great equalizer among men and women. Whether you agree or not, the number of West Michigan women picking up a gun has skyrocketed recently.

A mother-daughter team at the Silver Bullet is inspiring women to arm themselves. "In 2009 our home was robbed," said Whitney. "It was a terrible feeling, a violation."

Now Whitney and her mom Cat have made the Silver Bullet Training Center their second home. "I love it, because it's my passion," said Cat.

With their boots on the ground andsome pink earmuffs on, they're teaching women of all ages how to fire if someone's attacking. "We've even had grandmas," said Whitney.

Cat is here to turn women's fear into fearlessness. "I've had woman a who've come here in her mid-40s, in tears over fear of handling a firearm," said Cat. "She started crying, I said 'What's wrong?' she said she had been held at gunpoint at the age of 17."

In just a year-and-a-half, 640 women have signed up for her self-defense class. "The numbers that are here lately are just through the roof," said Whitney. Most are in their mid 30s to mid 50s, have professional careers, and Cat says have more discretionary income than ever before.

They're women like college student Katie Snip who says she's always felt scared of being alone in a parking ramp at night. "You just hear about the crazy things that happen in the world today and it just makes you realize you want to have something to protect yourself with. Hearing stories of women who know women who got attacked."

Statistics provided to WZZM 13 from Michigan State Police show pistol sales and registrations rose 25 percent from 2012 to 2013. Concealed pistol licenses rose statewide by 35%.

An overwhelming majority are in West Michigan; Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, and Newaygo Counties saw anywhere from 30% to 65% jumps in pistol sales, registrations and CPLS in just one year.

And though opponents argue guns for self-defense are a self-delusion, Cat stands her ground. "We don't have that brute strength, we don't have that power. I think this is a life skill that we need to have."

Gun participation among women nationwide is up. The National Shooting Sports Foundation provided the latest statistics to WZZM 13, which show target live ammunition shooting increased from 2011 to 2012, from 5.1 million to 6.4 million. Hunting firearms increased over the same time period from 2.4 million to 3.1 million.

Here's the breakdown from MSP:

Gun registrations (includes Pistol Sales Records and Licenses to Purchase) received for females statewide:*

Kent County

2012 - 1,137

2013 - 1,987

Muskegon County

2012 - 445

2013 - 634

Newaygo County

2012 - 222

2013 - 456

Ottawa County

2012 - 568

2013 - 997

*This does not necessarily mean there are this many females that have guns, as one woman may have several guns registered to her. On the flip side, since this is the number of registrations received, that doesn't necessarily mean the woman still owns the gun.

Concealed Pistol Licenses issued to females statewide:

2012 - 21,496

2013 - 33,096

Kent County

2012 - 482

2013 - 1,032

Muskegon County

2012 - 231

2013 - 514

Newaygo County

2012 - 87

2013 - 220

Ottawa County

2012 - 220

2013 - 615

For information for "Classes with Cat and Whitney," call the Silver Bullet Indoor Range at 616-249-1911 or visit www.MyAFDS.com

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