POLICE yesterday outlined a trial programme under which women recruits will carry guns. The force said it had agreed 'in principle' to the arming of women officers - next year's recruits would have to understand they might be required to use weapons. The police announcement confirmed a story in yesterday's South China Morning Post. The announcement said: All new recruits will be fully trained in firearms and informed of the possible requirement to carry arms in future; Volunteers in emergency units will be trained in a scheme mainly aimed at determining the suitability of standard issue .38 revolvers; Serving women officers will be invited 'in due course' to gain firearms training. The statement said the date for women to carry guns on duty would depend on the trial programmes and the adoption of a uniform being tested in the next few months. Current uniforms do not permit women to carry arms. One of the force's senior policewomen, Kwai Tsing Deputy District Commander, Senior Superintendent Peggy Stevens, welcomed the decision. Mrs Stevens said guns would give women 'the same protection and authority' as male officers. Dismissing claims that guns could expose women to danger, Mrs Stevens said: 'I do not believe it is a valid excuse. 'Many women officers are as strong as men. For example, when there is an armed robbery in progress, an unarmed woman officer may not be able to go to deal with it. 'She may have to hide for safety.' Mrs Stevens did not think the policy change would discourage women from joining the force. But she said it would be unlikely she would take extra firearms training because her job as senior superintendent seldom required her to go outside the office on patrol. 'Male officers of the same rank do not carry arms either,' she said. Mrs Stevens has been with the force for 18 years and is one of its three most senior women. Her peers are Kowloon West Deputy Regional Commander, Chief Superintendent Felicia Wong Leung Kam-shan and Tai Po District Commander, Chief Superintendent Millie Stradmoor.