As threats across the nation grow, state capitols have taken on a different look from years past.
Georgia’s is no different.
The first thing you notice when you enter the Georgia Capitol off Mitchell Street is the military-style armed guards, dogs and a SWAT truck.
You also notice the construction as a new barrier goes up.
State Rep. Calvin Smyre has been entering this building as a lawmaker since 1974, longer than any other legislator up here.
This week, he stopped and talked to a couple of the men protecting the Capitol and the General Assembly.
Smyre perspective is worth listening to.
“They have 50 pounds of gear on them, 45 to 50 pounds of gear they are wearing to protect us,” Smyre said. “And to me, I want to thank them for their service to our state. … It’s uneasy, it’s uneasy … it’s an unsettling experience. But much, much needed.”
There is security ringing the Capitol, but it is concentrated along Mitchell Street between the Gold Dome and the Coverdale building, where many lawmakers work.
State Sen. Ed Harbison is a Vietnam combat veteran. He’s in his 28th year under the Gold Dome.
“I actually feel like this is combat instruction,” Harbison said. “You get that feeling that everything is not quite normal. You are in a situation where you have to protect yourself and others.”
Sen. Randy Robertson is in his third after a lengthy career in law enforcement.
“I think the choices that are being made now are the correct choices,” Robertson said. “But I think as the threats evolve, I think we need to continue re-evaluating the security of not only this government building.”
Robertson says he talking about schools, unemployment offices and other soft targets.