You never know which shop owners are packing heat, but one thing is certain: Their numbers are increasing.

This year, more small-business owners want to keep guns behind the counter. Permit applications are up nearly 12 percent from 2010, according to the NYPD.

Shop owners are “sitting ducks,” said small-business advocate Fernando Mateo, who last year helped pass out gun applications to thousands of businesses.

Bodega workers are especially vulnerable, as most are open through the lonely late-night hours. “They are very scared,” said Luis Ducasse, president of the Bodegueros Association, based in New York. “They do not have any way to defend themselves.”

All shop owners plan for thieves, said Ben Ryder Howe, author of “My Korean Deli,” about owning a Boerum Hill store for two years. “Every store gets robbed eventually,” he said.

Anthony Spinelli used his Beretta handgun against robbers last month, firing three bullets at robbers who put a gun to his head and demanded cash at his Bronx jewelry store.

“If I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. He shot the getaway driver in the leg; the man survived and was later arrested.

But shooting someone haunted him; he says he couldn’t sleep for days.

“I’m not a hero,” Spinelli said. “I’m just protecting what I worked hard for. You’re looking at your investment going out the door.”

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