More than 40 per cent of police officers have felt their life was in serious danger after being threatened by a member of the public, a new survey reveals.
Research for the Police Federation finds almost six per cent of officers have been threatened with a firearm in the past two years, 28 per cent with a knife and almost 40 per cent with another weapon.
The majority - 77 per cent - reject the suggestion that all frontline officers should be routinely armed, with 14 per cent saying they would not want to carry a gun and half of these saying they would quit if they were made to do so.
But the survey of 141,000 police officers throughout England and Wales finds widespread support for the use of Taser guns, with 89 per cent believing their use should be rolled out beyond authorised firearms officers.
This is likely to provoke concern among some campaigners, who argue Tasers are potentially lethal. A recent report from Amnesty International revealed 152 people have died after being shot by Tasers since 2001 - 61 last year alone.
Today's research was released at the start of the Police Federation's annual conference, and chairwoman Jan Berry said they revealed the need for more firearms officers to deal with the increasing number of gun crimes reported each year.
"Despite fearing for their lives on more occasions, most police officers throughout the country still do not want to be routinely armed," she said.
"But chief officers must not continue to fail the men and women who risk their lives every day to protect the communities they serve.
"They must ensure there are sufficient numbers of authorised firearms officers to call upon, to deal with the increasing number of gun crimes reported each year and I urge the new home secretary to hold chief officers to account on this."
The number of firearms officers has increased in recent years, rising from 5,763 in 2002-03 to 6,243 last year, but gun crime is also on the rise, with the latest Home Office figures showing an increase of six per cent on the previous year.
Firearms were involved in 1,206 more serious incidents of violence against the person - not including murder - last year than in 2003-04, although the number of firearm robberies fell by nine per cent over the same period.
The Police Federation survey also finds that 58.4 per cent of officers would support making the wearing of body armour compulsory, although Ms Berry warned that it must be suitable to protect them against both guns and knives.
"Officers should be safe in the knowledge that all has been done to protect their safety - this means appropriate, reliable equipment and sufficient back-up officers should they be required," she added.