Resident Brit here. The question of whether or not to arm our police does arise from time to time, but the vast majority of police officers and public feel the current situation is optimum: police do not carry firearms as a matter of routine, but the police force as a whole has access to all the weaponry it wants when appropriate high-level serious risk is present.
Q4 first. Let’s not get bogged down in a debate about guns per se. As any longstanding Doper is well aware, the pro- and anti-gun arguments go on forever, world without end. It is very hard to argue against the responsible use of guns, so folk who think guns=good emphasise the benefits of responsible use. Likewise, it is very hard to argue for the irresponsible use of guns, so people who think guns=bad emphasise the risks and problems of abuse. Yawn, seen all that before.
Here in the UK, the general view is that for the most part police and criminals enjoy a mutually beneficial absence of guns. The crooks don’t feel the need to be armed, because they know the cops and public aren’t. The cops and public don’t feel the need to be armed because the crooks aren’t. And round the circle goes.
This leads to the answer to Q1, yes, it’s much lower. Cops can reasonably expect to serve their entire time in the force without ever even seeing a gun, let alone being shot at by one.
There is some opinion that this cosy ‘no guns either side’ climate is changing, and that certain kinds of organised crooks - chiefly connected to the drugs trade - have been infiltrating the UK for years and bringing with them a much more violent and gun-toting kind of violence. Such themes are emphasised by the more right-wing press, bringing the let’s-arm-the-cops lobby to the fore, and played down by everyone else.
Q2. Our police receive only very basic training in methods of defusing situations, self-defence and subduing bad guys to apprehend them, but using nothing more than a baton-type of affair called a truncheon. There is ‘riot squad’ training for policing incidents of large-scale unrest, and weapons training for those who choose to specialise in this area.
Q3. Respect for the police? Hard to give a fair assessment. I think that in general public opinion is pretty LOW, but not because of anything to do with guns or lack of. The police suffer from very bad PR. The prevailing opinion is that the police are racist, unregulated and prone to falsifying evidence as and when it suits them. What annoys people most is the way the police SEEM to waste far too much time harassing basically law-abiding people for things like minor motoring offences instead of trying to catch serious crooks.