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Ottawa is launching nationwide consultations on a handgun ban, a move that will fuel a national debate on the need for tighter gun control and the proper response to growing gun crimes across the country.

There is an existing bill before Parliament to enact restrictions on firearms in Canada, but that bill is close to passing the House and does not include specific measures on handguns. The government is starting the handgun consultation process with a little more than a year before the 2019 federal election.

The Liberal government and the Opposition Conservatives are already engaged in a tough battle over the current legislation. The political debate over handguns stands to become even more divisive as parties argue over the right balance between the legitimate and illegal use of the firearms.

The consultations will be led by Bill Blair, the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, who is a former chief of police in Toronto. The format is still being finalized, but the government is looking at the possibility of holding public hearings, conducting expert panels and inviting Canadians to send in written submissions.

“We will consult people, we want their opinion,” said Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux, a spokeswoman for Mr. Blair.