WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- - Arming themselves in record numbers and most people would not even know it was happening.
New data from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services show that there are a growing number of women who are concealing and carrying firearms.
The report shows nearly a quarter of all permit holders are female.
"I just don't want to be caught in a situation where I would need it and not have it," said Shelly Garza, a Royal Palm Beach resident.
Garza carries her 1911 pistol in her center counsel in her truck. When it is not there, her gun is on her side.
With her boyfriend working late hours, Garza applied for her concealed weapons permit in the last year, joining a growing number of women who are carrying firearms in Florida.
"I think they're being smarter and I think they're protecting themselves," said Garza.
According to the state statistics, women now make up 22% of all active concealed weapons permits. Just a few years ago, they accounted for 15% of all licenses.
"You know you're seeing just more and more women who are out there by themselves who don't have their family anymore. Their fathers or mothers," said Jason Jordan, a firearms instructor at the Palm Beach Shooting Center.
Jordan said they have taken notice to the flood of female shooters. He said his shop is now carrying and selling a higher number of smaller, lighter guns.
"As long as they take the right training, they can handle the gun safety. They can only be an asset," said Jordan.
Garza said she just trying to protect herself without having to rely on other people.
"It's there. I feel safer that it's there. If I needed it, it's only reach away. If I don't, good," said Garza.
Of the growing number of women legally carrying and concealing a firearm, women ages 51-65 make up the majority.