Police face poll on carrying firearms

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All 140,000 police officers in England and Wales are to be asked if they want routinely to carry guns.

The Police Federation is to poll of all its members in the wake of the fatal shooting of PC Sharon Beshenivsky.

The last similar survey by the federation took place three years ago and only involved 13,000 rank-and-file officers. It found that 79 per cent were against being armed.

Despite rising gun crime, that poll showed that the proportion wanting to carry firearms had risen just 1 per cent since the previous poll in 1995. The new poll will reveal if the shootings of PC Beshenivsky and her colleague PC Teresa Milburn in Bradford last month has swayed opinion.

The fatal shooting of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes at the height of the terror alert in July is also expected to influence the result. The Metropolitan Police officers who shot Mr Menezes are facing possible criminal charges.

The federation chairwoman, Jan Berry, has said that even if her members reject being routinely armed, more firearms officers are needed. "We should be looking very closely at increasing the number of firearms officers we have," she said in the wake of PC Beshenivsky's shooting.

"At the moment we have less than 5 per cent trained to carry firearms and we are not convinced that that provides the police service with sufficient resilience."