Amanda Downey lives in Killeen and just recently bought a gun.

On Sunday, Downey was taking a license to carry class in Kempner.

"We have security systems," Downey said. "But yes, you always feel safer when you have other means to protect your home."

People like Amanda have seen an increase in violent crime in Killeen, even though the city has seen a drop in its overall crime rate.

Nationwide, murder rates have been gradually declining for years. But if you isolate the murder rate in a handful of our nation's largest cities, you'll find a 17 percent increase from 2014 to 2015. And it makes some people want to protect themselves.

"I have three kids," Jamie Barens, who's considering buying a handgun, said. "I want to make sure that my house is protected. I want to make sure that I can protect them and protect myself."

Amanda Downey added, "With 911, it would take a few, at least 3 or 4 minutes to get there. They can't always be there when we need them."

A recent Harvard study says 42 percent of guns owned in the United States are handguns, up by almost 10 percent since 1994. That same study says 63 percent of people are buying these guns for protection, up from 46 percent almost 20 years ago.

Bruce Kaase, a local firearms dealer and instructor. He says since open carry was leagalized in Texas on January 1st of this year, his handgun sales went up dramatically.

"We've probably seen a 30-40 percent increase in sales," Kaase said. "We're a small-time dealer and our sales have gone up that much just from people wanting that protection."

Critics worry an increase in guns could lead to more crime. But Kaase says that has more to do with who is holding the gun.

He emphasizes education for new gun owners and he's seen an increase in people enrolling in classes to be responsible owners of guns.

"Yes, it is a tool," Kaase said. "But if it's used in the appropriate person's hand, then it's a good tool to have and that's what we're training them."

And although she's prepared, Downey hopes she won't ever have to turn to the Taurus in her purse.

"Nobody ever wants to buy a handgun to us it, not that I feel, for protection."