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Prime Minister John Key says he supports looking into giving police greater access to firearms, but that won't stop officers being shot at.

Police commissioner Howard Broad wants changes to police gun policies after two Christchurch policemen were shot and seriously wounded on Tuesday on a routine inquiry.

Six-year-old police dog Gage was shot dead in the incident, which was the ninth police shooting in two years.

Police can have guns with them, kept in a box in their vehicle's boot, but the commissioner is looking at a policy change to allow them to keep guns within hand reach in the vehicle.

Mr Key said today he supported Mr Broad examining the policy.

"I support the view of the commissioner to have greater accessibility to firearms but I don't think it will fix the problems that we see out there. There are wider issues," he said.

"If you look at the United States their police officers are very heavily armed. It doesn't stop them being ambushed, it doesn't stop them being shot at and unfortunately it doesn't stop them being killed."

Mr Key said his first preference was always for police to use a non-lethal option.

"If they Taser someone in all probability they will get up again. If they shoot them, the person won't. That is going to inevitably have a degree of reluctance on the police officer to pull the trigger.

"That doesn't mean they shouldn't have guns."

Mr Key also addressed the availability of air rifles, which can currently be bought by anyone aged 18 or over without the need for a gun licence.

"The power of some of those air rifles is equivalent of a .22 and we license those, so there is certainly some logic to looking at whether we should be licensing very high-powered air rifles."

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said yesterday the shooting in Christchurch showed the current policy on police firearms use was not working and more frontline police needed to be armed.

Green Party police spokesman Keith Locke said the Government should resist pressure from the association to arm frontline police officers.

"We want to do all we can to protect our police, but having more officers carrying guns is not the answer."

Police Minister Judith Collins said she disagreed that better access was a step towards full arming of police, and as the policy change had been in train for a while it was not a "knee-jerk" reaction.

-NZPA