Protection and empowerment: Those are the driving forces behind an explosive trend in Indiana: Women with guns. Martina Schuett owns a spray-tan business and dotes over her 1-year-old daughter, and also has a semi-automatic handgun slipped inside a holster in her pants.

“It’s nice to be able to have that confidence and be an equal. That’s what guns do. They are an equalizer,” stated the 30-year-old Schuett from Indianapolis. She is the owner of Tans By Tina and carries a Ruger LCP .380 at all times. “I am never going to be able to fight off a man by myself. But I can with a gun.” While safety is the top reason women are packing heat, plenty say they’re getting gun permits for other reasons — to hunt, target shoot and as a way to connect with their gun-loving husbands. Think date night at the shooting range.

The number of women with gun permits in Indiana has jumped 42.6 percent since 2012 — from 86,617 permits two years ago to 123,536 through the first quarter of this year. Earlier statistics aren’t available because the Indiana State Police Firearms Licensing Division didn’t track by gender until 2012. During the same period, the number of firearm licenses issued to men rose 14.6 percent, an increase to 434,253 from 378,995. The trend for women is mirrored nationwide. When the National Rifle Association’s annual convention hits the city Friday, 25 percent of its 70,000 attendees will be women, said Jeremy Greene, director with the NRA’s marketing division.

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