One of two bomb-sniffing dogs now protecting Georgia's State Capitol
State Trooper patrolling Georgia State Capitol with semi-automatic assault rifle
School children touring Georgia State Capitol
Col. Mark McDonough, Georgia Commissioner of Public Safety
ATLANTA, Ga. -- Some people may be startled to see semi-automatic assault rifles around the Georgia State Capitol these days.
They're being carried by some specially trained State Troopers who stand guard over lawmakers and visitors.
Also new this year is a pair of bomb-sniffing German Shepherds.
Col. Mark McDonough, Georgia's Commissioner of Public Safety, told 11 Alive News it's all part of a five-year security study that has been gradually put in place.
More State Troopers and State Capitol Police officers have been added at security check points the past few years.
And more patrol cars have been parked around the building.
Col. McDonough said the new M-6 carbine assault rifles and bomb-sniffing dogs are an extra show of force in more dangerous times.
"It sends a very clear message that we mean business about a safe place at the capitol," he added.
He said previously, security officers would have to wait for specially train SWAT teams to arrive should a serious incident happen.
But McDonough said he wanted the guards to be ready to react immediately with their own special training and equipment.
He pointed to the constant stream of school tours as one of the biggest reasons for beefed up security.
"Our first priority is the safety of those children and if we secure their safety, anybody who works there, anybody that's in and around the capitol or capitol buildings will be safe as well," he said.
Col. McDonough admitted he's received a few negative comments about the assault rifles, but said the majority of them have been supportive.