By Matt Petrillo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s gun violence is leading to an explosion of a new group of gun owners: women. More women sought out license-to-carry applications than men last year in the city.

Some gun experts call it unprecedented.

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A group of women gun owners created a friendship after crossing paths at the Delaware Valley Sports Center in Northeast Philadelphia a few months ago.

“I don’t know too many women personally who come to the gun range,” Deborah Kucowski said.

Brenda Adams says when the women met, they all “hit it off really well.”

The women refer to themselves as Terry’s Angels, after their gun instructor Terrance Lappe, who used to teach Philadelphia police officers to shoot.

“I’ve literally taught thousands on thousands of police to shoot and now civilians,” Lappe said.

Terry’s Angels are part of an increasing number of women Lappe is seeing at his classes in recent years.

Many of his female clients say they’re learning to shoot because of rising crime in the city.

“Carjackings, murder, it scared me,” Adams said. “I’ve been living in Philadelphia almost 64 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. That’s why I carry a gun.”

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Philadelphia set a grim new record for homicides in 2021, with more than 560 deaths.

In the same year, the number of Philadelphia’s license-to-carry applications surged to more than 70,000, much higher than in previous years.

Eyewitness News also found more women made up those applications, at just over half.

“Just want to be able to protect myself and my family,” Kucowski said.

The surge comes as a new bill introduced in Congress would incentive Americans to enroll in gun classes.

“You shouldn’t be able to just buy a gun without any type of training,” Lappe said. “There should be training that goes along with it.”

Now, these women plan to continue their learning.

“How to load your gun, how to shoot your gun, everything,” Sherry Coulter said.

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Nationwide, a recent Harvard study shows women accounted for half of all gun purchases between 2019 and 2021. In recent years, Black women have become the fastest-growing group of gun owners in the country, according to the National African American Gun Association.