Guards deployed to 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 “try everything to defuse a situation before having to draw their weapon and use it” as part of the response to civil unrest.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy approved federal and local authorities’ request for armed guards to support law enforcement protecting the Capitol earlier on Tuesday, Johnson said.
Defense officials and civil authorities have questioned whether to arm up to 15,000 guards from across the country who are expected to deploy to Washington to respond to the violent protests ahead of the inauguration.
Ahead of the assault on Capitol Hill Wednesday by a pro-Trump mob, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser deliberately sought to limit the military’s role in the city’s response to planned protests. She asked that the guards deployed at the scene not be armed.
But that calculation has changed in recent days, as law enforcement has received credible threats from armed militias planning to visit Capitol Hill in the days leading up to the January 20 inauguration, especially if the House votes to impeach. Trump for the second time on Wednesday.
“We want our individuals to have the right to self-defense,” General Daniel Hokanson, head of the National Guard’s bureau, told reporters on Monday before the decision. “If senior management determines that this is the right posture, then this is something we will do.”