The guardsmen stationed at the Capitol will also wear hard hats, gas masks, and Kevlar body armor, she said.
She stressed that members of the Guard are trained to “do everything in their power to de-escalate a situation before they have to draw and use their weapons” as part of a response to civil unrest.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy agreed to federal and local authorities’ request for armed guardsmen to aid law enforcement to protect the Capitol on Tuesday, Johnson said.
Defense officials and civil authorities have been weighing whether to arm up to 15,000 guardsmen from across the country, who are expected to be dispatched to Washington prior to the inauguration, to respond to violent protests.
Before a pro-Trump mob storm the Capitol on Wednesday, Mayor Muriel Bowser deliberately tried to narrow the military’s role in the city’s response to planned protests. She asked the guardsmen to be unarmed.
That rationale changed in recent days, however, when law enforcement received credible threats from armed militias who planned to move onto the Capitol in the days leading up to the January 20 inauguration, especially if the House against Trump for the second time on Wednesday would be correct.
“We want our individuals to have the right to self-defense,” General Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters Monday before the decision. “If management determines that this is the right attitude, we will.”