The chief firearms officer of Ontario says he's not backing down from continuing to require gun vendors in that province to keep records of firearms sales and who bought them, despite warnings this week from the federal public safety minister and RCMP commissioner against keeping "back door" gun registries.
Ontario Provincial Police Supt. Chris Wyatt said Friday that, while he's not looking to pick a fight with Ottawa, the maintenance of point-of-sale ledgers is critical because they help ensure firearms are not acquired by criminals, unlicensed people or those prohibited from having firearms.
"I think these ledgers are important for protecting public safety," said Wyatt, who told Ontario gun businesses in a letter last month their licences could be revoked if they didn't comply with the record-keeping requirements.
On Thursday, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson sent a letter to Wyatt and chief firearms officers in all the other provinces and territories, reminding them they were not permitted to create any semblance of a long-gun registry.
"The coming into force of the Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act leaves no doubt that Parliament has sought to eliminate any form of a long-gun registry," Paulson wrote in the letter.
"I instruct all Chief Firearms Officers to ensure that the licensing conditions you impose on business records pursuant to the Firearms Act do not facilitate the creation of long-gun registries in your jurisdictions," he added.
The letter came just days after Public Safety Minister Vic Toews sent a letter to Paulson saying the RCMP and the Canadian Firearms Program were to provide "no assistance or direction" to any province undertaking measures to create a provincial long-gun registry.
Toews said "the position of the federal government, as dictated by the will of Canadians, is that registration of long guns is wasteful and ineffective" and the collection of point-of-sale data is "no longer authorized" under the Firearms Act.
Some industry observers have complained Ontario police are flouting the will of Parliament and creating a new provincial gun registry "by the back door."
But Wyatt said Friday it is a "stretch" to equate the paper ledgers with the automated gun registry scrapped with the passage of Bill C-19.
If Toews wants provinces to stop collecting point-of-sale data, then he'll have to enact additional changes to the Firearms Act, Wyatt said, adding the ledgers have been in use since 1978.
Julie Carmichael, a spokeswoman for Toews, said Friday the minister is "prepared to consider any legislative or regulatory measures necessary to give effect to the will of Canadians."
The passage of Bill C-19 last month eliminated the requirement to register non-restricted firearms.
However, residents of Quebec are still required to do so because of a court injunction blocking implementation of the law.
Toews has vowed to "vigorously oppose" that court order.
-- Postmedia News