WASHINGTON — Defense leaders are reviewing restrictions on the use of force by National Guard members and could allow troops to carry batons or guns in Washington, D.C., as they brace for more protests and possible violence around the Jan. 20 inaugural, The Associated Press has learned.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The AP Friday that any changes will be determined by the intelligence gathered in the coming days about potential threats. But he said they are looking at allowing troops to carry their M-4 rifles or 9 mm Berettas, and he will know more in a day or two.
The review reflects concerns about the safety of the Guard troops in the wake of the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, and would also consider the legal restrictions that prohibit the use of the military for domestic law enforcement.
Allowing troops to carry deadly weapons would run up against deep-seated fears about the optics of anything suggesting that U.S. military forces were being used against Americans on U.S. soil. And it would require the permission of various authorities, depending on where the Guard members were stationed. For example, D.C. city officials would have to agree in order for the Guard to carry weapons within the city’s jurisdictions, such as at checkpoints or Metro stations. Federal approvals would be needed for locations on federal land, parks, monuments and places like Capitol Hill.
“We’ll be looking at the intelligence, and make a determination over the next day or so,” McCarthy said.