London's 30,000 Police officers are to be asked if they would like to make a break with history and carry a gun.

The survey comes partly in response to terror attacks in France, Belgium, and Germany.

The UK's police have traditionally been unarmed. Only a small number of highly trained officers - in London about 8% of the force - carry a gun.

Gun Survey by Metropolitan Police federation

The survey is being carried out by the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents London police officers, with the co-operation of the force itself.

The questionnaire will ask them whether they want to carry a gun and if they were forced to carry one whether they would quit.

It also asks them if they would like to carry a Taser.

After a terror attack in Brussels, the UK government said there would be a "surge" of an additional 1,000 armed officers and that 1,000 of the armed police currently protecting nuclear power stations could be redeployed in the event of multiple terror attacks. Around 600 of the extra armed police were for London.

Ken Marsh, the Federation's chairman, said on BBC radio "We are moving in very difficult times now in the UK."

Guns not carried

Most police in the UK are issued with an extendable baton and pepper spray. The policy of not carrying firearms goes back to the foundation of the modern police force in the 1800s. In the 1980s the number of armed police actually fell after training was made more strict and some officers had their guns taken away.

There are clearly many police officers who don't want to carry a weapon - and Mr. Marsh, a serving policeman as well as Federation chairman, is one. He said, "I have never wanted to carry a gun - that's my personal opinion." However, he admitted: "I could be in a very, very small minority."


Marsh added that he thought the public felt safer with guns being carried by a small number of officers with highly specialised training. However, Mr. Marsh said he would be happy to carry a Taser, which the UK government considers to be a non-lethal weapon.

The most recent major terror attack in Europe was a massacre at a Christmas market by a terrorist driving a truck in December.

The German government says the terrorist was shot by a rookie cop after pulling out a gun in a routine check. A UK police officer in this situation would likely not have been armed.

On Twitter the most common response was that police with Tasers were fine - but that Brits still like their police unarmed. One serving officer Tweeted "I'd say yes to Taser for all frontline officers through the country but no to guns."