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Nashville Airport Police Now Armed With Semi-Automatic Rifles

Posted at 5:27 PM, Jul 21, 2016

It's a first. The next time you fly, you'll notice police at the Nashville International Airport armed with semi-automatic rifles.

That's a big step up in the level of security, and it's a show of force they said has been needed with the growing concerns over violence and terrorism, not just here, but across the country.

The semi-automatic weapons have been very hard to miss.

"It's scary, but that's reality today," said one traveler. "I don't have any problem with it at all."

Earlier in July, airport police quietly began carrying  the rifles during patrols in the terminal.

"Our number one goal is safety, security of the airport," said Doug Kreulen, the airport's chief operation officer.

He said the weapons have been fully loaded and have always been in their arsenal, but the guns were locked up elsewhere, only available if needed.

Apparently that need is now.

"We receive daily intelligence reports from the Tennessee Fusion Center, and with the heightened terrorist activity from around the world, it was an appropriate thing to do," said Kreulen.

The semi-automatic rifles have not been in use because of any specific threat against the airport in Nashville.

Rather, it's a reaction to terrorist attacks, especially at other airports overseas, most recently in Turkey.

"When you think about it, it is more comfortable, but when you think, it's scary because you think, 'What's happening internationally,'" said air traveler Mickey Thursam.

Police have been trained to use the rifles if needed, and just the appearance of the guns has been considered an added visual deterrent -- a psychological tool to hopefully discourage any trouble.

"Safety is a good thing. It's unfortunate. That's the world we live in, but I'd rather him have it than somebody else," said Brandon Bush, an air traveler.

The new weapons are not temporary. Semi-automatic rifles at the airport are now a reality in Nashville and at other airports across the country.

Airport police have coordinated their efforts with the latest information from Homeland Security and the FBI.