Senior police chiefs are warning against calls for a change in police gun policy to allow more officers to carry arms following the death of two of officers in Manchester.
Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, died after gun and grenade attack on Tuesday. The horrific nature of the attack and the apparent luring of the officers to their deaths has caused intense debate about safety with relatives of previous victims of gun crime calling for more officers to be armed.
President of the Association of Chief Police Officers Sir Hugh Orde has backed Sir Peter Fahy, the chief constable of Greater Manchester police, in speaking against officers routinely being armed.
Orde said: "Guns don't necessarily solve the problem. You only have to look at the American experience. Many colleagues in America are lost without even drawing their gun at close ranges."
Orde added that it was the "clear view of the British police service from top to bottom" that officers prefer to be unarmed because the public dislike approaching constables bearing weapons.
He said minimum use of force and intervention was the "bedrock" of Britain's policing model.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme policing is "a risk business", adding: "As we speak, officers will be responding to calls not knowing what they will get to and not knowing exactly what they will be dealing with when they arrive. It's just a harsh fact of policing and, tragically on occasions, things go horribly wrong."
The opposition is in part philosophical. A regularly armed force is seen as jarring with the British model that officers police by consent and are citizens in uniform.
Fahy expressed a similar opinion soon after the shooting: "We are passionate that the British style of policing is routinely unarmed policing. Sadly, we know from the experience in America and other countries that having armed officers certainly does not mean they do not end up getting shot dead."
The Manchester deaths take the number of officers killed this year after a firearms incident to three. PC Ian Dibell was killed by a single bullet wound to the chest after intervening in a dispute while off duty. The incident happened in July in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. The suspected gunman, Peter Reeve, was found dead the next day with a gun.
In February, Northumbria PC David Rathband committed suicide, 18 months after being blinded by gunman Raoul Moat in July 2010. After Tuesday's deaths, Rathband's twin brother called for police officers to be routinely armed.
"It beggars belief. How many officers need to die before the powers realise that it is the 21st century and you cannot fight crime with an outdated piece of plastic and a bit of spray?" asked Darren Rathband, a former Staffordshire police officer now serving in South Australia.
"No job is a routine job and there is always the potential for conflict. We don't go on jobs where people are happy to see us. I am angry some other families have now lost a daughter, sister, mother or wife and it makes me angry that the thin blue line is getting thinner and thinner."
Paul Beshenivsky, the widower of murdered police constable Sharon Beshenivsky, who died in service in 2005, told ITV news the latest killings should "open the public's eyes" and reopen the debate about arming officers.
He said: "I think policing, as regarding going to scenes of crimes, should be monitored better, and I think police, in honesty, should be armed, walking into situations that they're not totally aware of. You can't have armed response at every situation, but I think, as an officer being armed, walk into a situation, feeling more comfortable, walking into that situation, thinking, 'I could respond to that situation'."
With the exception of Northern Ireland, officers in the UK are not routinely armed. They have to volunteer to carry weapons, and undergo rigorous training and assessment to ensure that they are fit to do so.
According to the latest figures, in 2010-11 a total of 6,653 officers were authorised to carry weapons, a decrease of 326 (5%) on the previous year. There are around 140,000 officers in England and Wales.
Specialist firearms officers are available to be deployed, as are armed response vehicles.
Police favour increased issuing of stun guns that fire a powerful electric current. Officers are issued with protective vests that stop knives and offer limited protection against low-velocity bullets. More extensive protection against bullets would prove too heavy to wear for a full shift.
Greater Manchester police is under investigation over the shooting dead in March of Anthony Grainger, who was unarmed, according to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The reaction to the deaths of Bone and Hughes shows there is still shock attached to the murder of police officers in the line of duty. Guns remain a rare commodity on Britain's streets.