All frontline police vehicles look set to carry firearms in lock boxes by mid-2011 after the Government indicated it would back recommendations to give police easier access to guns.

Just days after Senior Constable Bruce Mellor suffered horrific injuries when two machete-wielding youths attacked him near Taihape, Police Commissioner Howard Broad yesterday presented Police Minister Judith Collins with a report recommending police carry guns in frontline patrol vehicles as a matter of course.

Mr Broad said police were concerned about the increasing seriousness of assaults on them.

Nine officers have been shot in the past two years, two fatally, and the assault on Mr Mellor has also raised concerns about the safety of police patrolling rural areas on their own.

The report follows a review of firearms policy initiated in July after Christchurch policemen Mitchel Alatalo and Bruce Lamb were shot during a drug search.

"We believe that there is a need for greater accessibility to firearms for our frontline staff and that should be provided to those officers who are in areas of most risk," Mr Broad said yesterday.

"I am talking about more lock boxes, and not just for rural police."

He pointed out that all rural police vehicles were patrol cars or frontline vehicles. "I would suggest that that's precisely where those lock boxes ought to be."

At present 641 of 2700 police patrol vehicles have lock boxes or gun safes which can hold two pistols and two rifles, but the weapons are not always carried.

While some, including Police Association head Greg O'Connor, have called for all police to be armed, Ms Collins said she did not know that better access to firearms would have made a difference to Mr Mellor.

Mr Broad said the outcome could have been worse.

"If he'd been wearing a firearm it's possible that having been surprised and struck you would have an officer lying on the ground with a weapon that could have been taken off him by the offenders and you can think about the possibilities from that point."

He said there was no international evidence to suggest arming the police made their work or the public safer, but the training that went with greater access to arms might do so.

"I'm confident this is the next step and if I'm wrong then the next step after that will be a general arming of the police."

Prime Minister John Key said it was "inevitable" that police would get easier access to firearms.

"Whether that will actually make them safer, I think the jury is out."

Although Mr Key said he was shocked by the injuries inflicted on Mr Mellor, greater access to firearms might make police safer "at the margins" but was unlikely to prove "the panacea to all the problems".

Police already have about 1800 firearms, and while the new plan would see those increasingly moved from stations and supervisors' vehicles, Mr Broad said the plan might require more arms to be purchased.

Ms Collins said she had yet to read the report but indicated she would probably pick up its recommendations for introduction by the middle of next year.