People across the north are being urged to say No to armed police patrols on the streets of the Highlands and islands.
The routine carrying of guns by officers was described last night as the hottest topic in the region after the independence referendum debate.
And the public will get the chance to air their views on the controversial policy as part of a wide-ranging new consultation.
The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) wants them to submit views and evidence which will be considered by a specially-convened scrutiny inquiry.
Earlier this year, Highland Council demanded a rethink of the firearms policy amid growing alarm caused by the sight of officers carrying holstered handguns on patrol and as they attended run-of-the-mill incidents.
The local authority’s Liberal Democrat depute leader David Alston has been at the forefront of the opposition to the practice.
He said last night: “Clearly, this remains an incredibly contentious issue.
“There has been a letting off of the pressure during the referendum period, but now that is over then it is important that the issue is not allowed to drop off the radar.
“It is vitally important that the public are given the chance to raise their views directly with the police authority. I would call on as many people as possible to come forward and make their voice heard.
“Highland Council will also be submitting its views on the issue and will be calling for a chance to put our case directly to the inquiry.”
Inquiry chairman Iain Whyte, an SPA board member, said that only the independence referendum had provoked a bigger reaction from the public in Scotland this year.
The SPA wants to know if police communication with the public about the guns policy was effective or not.
In an online form, the SPA has asked if the move has impacted on feelings of safety and security and trust in the force.
Last month, it emerged that the change in policy had been authorised by Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House without consultation with the civilian watchdog.
The SPA has also issued letters to 350 stakeholders and interested parties asking for their views.
A second inquiry set up by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) is also scrutinising the use of firearms officers.
Mr Whyte added: “With the obvious exception of last week’s Scottish referendum, few other issues have stimulated as much opinion and debate in recent months as the role of armed officers in Scottish policing, and in particular concerns about how armed police are used and deployed on more routine duties.
“But like many debates, there has also been some misinformation, some misunderstandings and a number of claims to know the public’s mind and mood on this issue.
“That’s why the SPA believes the call for evidence we are undertaking is a tremendous opportunity for an accurate assessment of the nature and level of public concerns to be captured, and for communities and their representatives to make their voices heard.”
A team of 16 officers in the north have been carrying holstered pistols at their side for more than a year.
They have been actively deployed on more than 40 occasions, but have never had to fire their Glock 9mm weapons.
Other north politicians have welcomed the inquiry.
Dave Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said the inquiry and review was “fantastic” news.
He accepted the need for a firearms policy and said people must trust the police and not subject them to “unreasonable political pressure”.
Highland Independent MSP John Finnie, a former policeman, was pleased the review would examine the community impact of the new firearms policy.
He said: “The public have made their views clear – they don’t want armed officers walking about their streets attending to routine police tasks.”