Almost two thirds of people do not want police carrying guns on general duties, saying it is enough to have the armed offenders squad.

In a Herald survey, 31 per cent of the 2296 respondents supported allowing all police to carry firearms at all times.

But 65 per cent believed only the armed offenders squad should carry guns, showing strong support for current police practice.

Only 1.2 per cent of those polled believed police should not be armed in any circumstances, and 3 per cent were unsure.

The online survey of the Herald Readers' Panel was conducted by the Nielsen Company between December 10 and December 17 - before the shooting and serious wounding of Constable Jeremy Snow in Papatoetoe.

Greg O'Connor, president of the Police Association - the police union - said many of those opposed to arming police were influenced by a nostalgia which had no place in the modern world.

"There is a bit of nostalgia in New Zealand for unarmed police. But unfortunately that nostalgia is less and less in keeping with the realities of the job.

"Criminals don't necessarily arm themselves against police, they arm themselves against each other and police are becoming collateral damage in that."

He believed full arming of the police was inevitable and urged Police Minister Judith Collins to follow the example of Norway, which had decided to keep police officers unarmed but have firearms in all patrol cars.

His renewed calls followed the wounding of Constable Snow, and the deaths of Sergeant Don Wilkinson in September 2008 and Senior Constable Len Snee, shot in May last year by Napier gunman Jan Molenaar.

Ms Collins said she was not surprised by the high level of support the Herald survey showed for the status quo.

She expected to receive advice this month on tougher penalties for assaulting and shooting police, but had no plans to allow all officers to carry guns.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad did not support it, and she believed police had quick access to firearms when needed.

Debate over arming should wait until after the new Tasers were introduced from March and their effect seen.

Criminals seemed to be more frightened of Tasers than firearms, probably because they knew police were more likely to use a Taser than a firearm.

She said most incidents in which police had been shot came with no or little warning, and it would probably have made little difference if the officers had been armed.

"When police encounter firearms, most are hunting rifles or shotguns, not sidearms. A pistol is no match for the firing power of those."

Mr O'Connor expected a survey the association was planning would show higher support for arming police.

In a survey in mid-2008, 55 per cent of the public and 48 per cent of police staff had supported routine arming of police.

Mr O'Connor said the lower level of support in the Herald survey was possibly caused by inclusion of the question about whether only the armed offenders squad should carry firearms.

"I don't think people quite understand what that means - that in some places that means up to a two-hour wait for the armed offenders squad to deploy there."

Seventy-eight per cent of those polled in the Herald survey were from Auckland.

Men and younger people showed stronger support for arming all police at all times.

Overall, 34 per cent of men believed officers should be armed against 29 per cent of women.

But 35 per cent of women aged 18 to 29 and 39 per cent of women aged 30 to 44 favoured arming all police, compared to 22 per cent of women aged 60 plus.

Among men, those aged 45 to 59 were most in favour of arming police - 38 per cent believed they should be armed.

WHO SHOULD BE ARMED?
65 per cent
Only the Armed Offenders Squad

31 per cent
All police at all times

WHAT DO YOU THINK
Should our police be routinely armed?
Send your thoughts to newsdesk@nzherald.co.nz