ATLANTA — For the first time ever, troopers at the state capitol will be armed with assault rifles.
The Georgia State Patrol said it has not received a specific threat but believe the rifles are needed to launch a quick response.
GSP Col. Mark McDonough told Channel 2's Diana Davis the program has become a necessary part of law enforcement.
"I know folks like to think about Utopia, but that's the world we live in. It's a mean, ugly world out there," he said.
McDonough told Davis mass shootings at Columbine, Tucson and at a Colorado movie theater are proof it is a different world. He said the pistol side arms state troopers currently carry are not enough.
"Essentially, law enforcement is outgunned with the type of weapons we're coming up against," he said.
About 40 troopers and capitol police will be assigned the rifles. They'll be most visible outside the building but will have quick access on the inside as well.
"The right weapons and right equipment need to be in their hands when the incident occurs, not locked away in a closet. Normally, we would show up, set up a perimeter and wait for the SWAT team to get there, and that takes time and what's occurred in these incidents is that time is where innocent life is lost," McDonough said.
The GSP said metal detectors alone are not enough, though the agency said it has received no specific threats. The new program with troopers carrying assault rifles will be the new normal.
"Why wait for the incident? That's not the job I'm in. I'm responsible to prevent things," McDonough said.
The GSP and capitol police are easing in the program gradually. By the time the session starts early next year, it will be visible to anyone visiting the capitol.