Toews ends long gun ledgers as Quebec court fight continues

As arguments continue in Quebec's constitutional challenge of the federal law ending the gun registry, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews moved to prevent "back-door" registries with new regulations stating gun dealers need not collect and keep long gun data.

Arguments continue Thursday in Quebec's constitutional challenge of law ending long gun registry

While the Quebec government succeeded at keeping the gun registry alive just a little longer in the province Wednesday, the federal government made yet another move to bury it.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews tabled new regulations in the House of Commons Wednesday to end the requirement for gun dealers to keep ledgers recording information about long gun owners. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

A judge ordered the long-gun registry temporarily maintained in Quebec until he decides whether or not the province has a legal right to the data.

Legal arguments continue Thursday in a case that pits the Harper and Charest governments against each other on whether the province can keep Quebecers' gun data after the federal registry is detroyed.

Meanwhile in Ottawa, the Conservatives have found a new way to thwart future attempts to save the registry. They announced changes Wednesday to the Firearms Act so that businesses would no longer be required to collect and keep point-of-sale data for long guns.

The federal government has balked at handing over the data and has told Quebec to start its own registry from scratch if it wants one.

The federal law to destroy the registry came into effect in April everywhere else in Canada but, in Quebec, the long-gun registry has continued to function under court order. Wednesday's court order was the fourth time a Quebec judge has extended the life of the registry in the province.

The federal government's lawyers did not consent to the extension of the order on Wednesday, but did not oppose it either.

The province has said it is not trying to keep the federal registry alive, but wants the data it has collected over two decades and has argued it would be too expensive to replace the federal data. Quebec says it has a constitutional right to the data — a notion federal lawyers are opposing.

Gun ledger requirement ending

The bill to end the federal long-gun registry, C-19, received royal assent on April 5, fulfilling a long-standing promise by the Harper government.

C-19 ended registration of most rifles and shotguns and directed the RCMP to permanently destroy more than seven million files on firearm ownership.

Toews tabled additional regulations in the Commons on Wednesday that say firearms dealers would not be required to collect and keep data on long gun sales.

Provinces have required gun dealers to record information about sales for decades.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said last month the province wanted stores to continue collecting the name and address of those who buy guns.

The new federal regulations say a business cannot be forced, as a condition of its licence under the Firearms Act, to collect or record information about most long-gun transactions.

Toews says the regulations would eliminate the potential for the revival of the long-gun registry, which he said would "attack the rights of law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters."

"Our government has successfully passed legislation to scrap the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry once and for all," Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement.

"The regulations we are proposing under the Firearms Act will ensure that a long-gun registry will not be created through the back door and the will of Parliament is respected."

Quebec is the only jurisdiction that has sought to keep information from the registry. The movement to create the gun-control measure was inspired by the Montreal massacre in 1989.

The registry has remained operational in Quebec thanks to several injunctions obtained by Quebec until a ruling can be made on the merits of the case. A judge will render a written decision at a later date, once arguments are complete.

The case has been called a first in Canadian legal annals and will likely weave its way up to the Supreme Court of Canada.

With files from CBC News