Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is lashing out at provincial officials who he says are collecting unauthorized information on long-gun buyers, threatening to use legislation to make them stop.

In a letter to RCMP Commissioner Robert Paulson that was copied to all provincial chief firearms officers, Toews said the firearms officers "are attempting to collect point of sale data that they are no longer authorized to collect pursuant to Bill C-19 [the bill to end the long-gun registry]."

"To be clear, the Firearms Act neither authorizes this activity, nor any other measures that could facilitate the creation of a provincial long-gun registry," Toews wrote in the letter.

Firearms groups have been complaining Ontario gun vendors are still collecting personal information about legal purchases in ledgers, calling the books a way to create a "back-door" registry.

Ontario Provincial Police Supt. Chris Wyatt, the province's chief firearms officer, said last week the ledgers aren't new.

"Ledgers existed for decades before the long-gun registry," Wyatt told host Evan Solomon on CBC's Power & Politics Thursday. "It's in the interests of public safety to ensure that firearms aren't being sold to criminals or persons who are prohibited from having firearms."

The ledgers list the make, model and serial number of the gun sold, as well as the name and firearms licence number of the purchaser.

There was also a column in the ledgers to record the registration certificate number from the federal firearms registry, but this information will no longer exist with the end of the registry.

The CFOs have argued federal law requiring firearms vendors to record the information did not change with the passage of the Harper government's legislation to abolish the federal long-gun registry last month, but Toews' letter casts doubt on that argument.

Toews warns RCMP not to help with collection

Toews warned the RCMP and the Canadian Firearms Program not to help the provinces collect information from gun owners, unless it's "expressly required" by provincial law.

"The position of the federal government, as dictated by the will of Canadians, is that registration of long guns is wasteful and ineffective," he said.

"If it comes to your attention that CFOs are interpreting the Firearms Act as a basis for unauthorized data collection, please advise me immediately. I am prepared to consider all legislative and regulatory measures necessary to give effect to the will of Canadians."

C-19 became law last month. The new law requires the RCMP to delete all the data in the registry, and requires each provincial firearms office to destroy records under its control, which the province of Quebec is fighting in court so it can keep the records on Quebecers.

Wyatt says that, based on legal advice his office has received, he will be destroying only the records of the registration certificate.

Corrections

  • This article has been edited from an earlier version that said federal law requiring gun vendors to maintain ledgers of firearms sold did not change with passage of the bill to kill the gun registry. In fact, this is the subject of an apparent dispute between the RCMP, provincial firearms officers and the Public Safety Minister.
    May 09, 2012 2:08 PM ET
With files from CBC News