A narrow majority of people now favour the police carrying guns at all times - and the level of support has increased since last year, according to an APN survey.

Almost three-quarters of people also support guns being routinely carried in police patrol cars if locked away, according to the unscientific poll of 1500 Auckland readers of the New Zealand Herald, the Herald on Sunday, New Zealand Woman's Weekly and the New Zealand Listener.

The survey was done this week after Constable Mitchel Alatalo, 30, and Senior Constable Bruce Lamb, 50, were shot in a confrontation with a gunman at a Christchurch house on Tuesday.

Mr Lamb's police dog Gage was shot and killed in the incident. Mr Alatalo and Mr Lamb were unarmed when they were fired on, but Mr Lamb had access to a gun in his vehicle.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad said this week that a policy was being formulated to give police greater access to guns, and more discretion around officers arming themselves in riskier situations.

Asked about the general arming of police, 47.3 per cent of readers surveyed said the statement "Police should carry firearms at all times" best reflected their views. On the other side, 44.4 per cent supported firearms being carried only by the Armed Offenders Squad, and 2.4 per cent felt police should never carry firearms.

This compares with a Herald poll last summer in which 29.2 per cent of readers felt all police should carry firearms at all times, and 66.9 per cent favoured only the Armed Offenders Squad being armed.

Police currently carry firearms in some vehicles under the control of more senior staff, but 74 per cent of the readers surveyed this week support police routinely carrying guns in a locked area of patrol cars.

On another question, 45.2 per cent said access to guns would lead to fewer attacks on officers, compared with 24.8 per cent who said it would result in more attacks.

On the relationship between greater gun access and violent crime in general, 37.4 per cent thought there would be no change in the amount of violence, 32.6 per cent expected less, and 24.5 per cent expected more.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said he was heartened by the survey, which supported the view that most New Zealanders were happy for police to have greater access to guns.

"It just shows that the vocal minority [against more access] are just that," Mr O'Connor said.

Police Minister Judith Collins noted the strong support for firearms in locked boxes in patrol cars. She felt society would be poorer for fully arming police: "For now, I believe a better approach is to ensure frontline police have rapid access to firearms if they need them."

ARMED POLICE
December 2009
* For 29.2%
* Against 66.9%

July 2010
* For 47.3%
* Against 46.8%