The Daily News Journal reports Shelby County has the highest total handgun permits issued in the state, followed by Knox, Davidson, Hamilton and Rutherford.
Middle Tennessee State University criminal justice professor Carter F. Smith said the increase in permits issued to women may have something to do with the political climate.
"I suspect the reason for increased permits for women is tied to the reason there have been increased permits for all. My suspicions are that there was a push, formal or informal, tied to a concern that constitutional rights to gun ownership were likely to be threatened," he said, noting discussions that happened after two mass shootings in the U.S. in 2012.
"More women are fearful because those conversations get their attention," Smith said.
The largest percentage of permits for women were issued to women aged 46-50.
Smith said age could also be a factor in the increase in permits for women.
"(Generation Xers) are getting closer to retirement age," he said. "Whether they are in a marriage of not, they are realizing they are less nimble and less physically able, by and large, to defend or flee than they were years ago. Arming a woman increases her ability to prevent an attack and be able to defend herself more than simply arming a man. A gun is a great equalizer."
Rutherford County firearm safety instructor Amy Davis said she has noticed an increase in women interested in learning about guns.
"I think that women are taking more control of their personal safety and deciding to educate themselves about the options that are available to them," she said.
County resident Kelli Beam received her handgun carry permit last year. She said she decided to obtain it for protection.
"I have two small children, my husband travels a lot, I drive a lot, and I wanted it because I just wanted to feel secure," Beam said. "The world is getting crazier, and I wanted to know I can protect myself."
Information from: The Daily News Journal, http://www.dnj.com