The National Guard troops guarding the U.S. Capitol are authorized to carry firearms, the Army announced Wednesday.
The personnel were armed on Tuesday night in response to a request from federal authorities, the D.C. National Guard said in a statement. The arming was greenlit by Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.
“National Guard members are postured to meet the requirements of the supported civil authorities, up to and including protective equipment and being armed if necessary,” the statement said. “The public’s safety is our top priority.”
Photographs showed hundreds of guardsmen in the Capitol as House members debated impeaching President Donald Trump again. D.C. Guardsmen were activated before Jan. 6 per a request from Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, but they were not armed. Numerous others, including personnel from Maryland and Virginia, poured into the city after the Capitol was breached.
Five people died on Capitol grounds from the events of that day, including a protester who was shot dead by a U.S. Capitol Police officer. That officer has been placed on leave, pending an investigation. Another officer died from injuries suffered while responding to the breach.
Bowser, a Democrat, asked for and received an emergency declaration for the District of Columbia. Trump ordered federal assistance to supplement the city’s response efforts to “the emergency conditions resulting from the 59th Presidential Inauguration.”
Up to 15,000 National Guard troops are authorized to deploy to Washington ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration, Gen. Daniel Hokanson said Monday.
“To date, our troops have been requested to support security, logistics, liaison, and communication missions,” he said.
Authorities told reporters on Tuesday that over 160 case files have been opened in regards to the breach.
“This is a 24 seven full bore extensive operation into what happened that day,” Steven D’Antuono, an FBI official, said, noting agents have received more than 100,000 pieces of digital media from the public.
Bowser told the public during a separate event that they should not travel to Washington for Biden’s inauguration.
“Our goals right now are to encourage Americans to participate virtually and to protect the District of Columbia from a repeat of the violent insurrection experienced at the Capitol and its grounds on January the 6th,” she said.