Police officers in the United Kingdom will be polled on whether they want to carry firearms. Currently only about one in 20 officers across England and Wales carries a gun, in stark contrast with the United States, where even officers posted in schools are armed.
The last time the UK’s police union carried out a similar survey was in 2006. Then, 82% of officers said they would not want to be routinely armed. An official with the Police Federation told The Guardian that the levels of threat have changed in recent years—with terror attacks becoming increasingly common—making the re-evaluation necessary.
A similar poll of London officers in February found that 43% wanted more specialized firearms personnel, and 75% thought all cops should be issued Tasers. However only 26% said police should be routinely given firearms. A more general police welfare poll conducted nationally last year showed that only about a fifth of officers already carried guns or wanted to be armed. The new survey, a spokesperson for the Police Federation told Quartz, will be targeted toward the question of firearms and Tasers. It will be sent online to the 123,000 members of the organization.
Currently police officers have to volunteer to carry a gun. Incidents where the cops actually discharged a gun are rare, with fewer than 10 cases a year between 2009 and 2016, in a country of more than 65 million. Shootings of police officers are equally rare, with only six in the year preceding March 2017—a record high since data started being collected in 2005.
In the US, a country with a population about five times that of the UK, the police killed more than 1,000 people in 2015 and 2016, according to an unofficial count by The Guardian. Sixty-four officers were shot and killed in the line of duty in 2016.