Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he's not opening the door to vigilante justice by supporting firearm ownership for Canadians living in rural areas.

The PM lashed out at his critics Wednesday after some took issue with his suggestion that firearms are for "a certain level of security" in rural areas where police are not readily available.

Harper said it is "patently ridiculous" to suggest he supports the use of firearms to carry out vigilante justice in the absence of police.

The controversy stems from Harper's comments in front of a gathering of rural municipality representatives in Saskatoon last week. Harper told the crowd that guns are "tools" that can be used "for recreation and the vast majority do it safely."

Harper was speaking in defence of Bill C-42, the so-called Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act currently before the House of Commons.

"My wife's from a rural area and obviously gun ownership wasn't just for the farm, but was for a certain level of security when you're a ways away from immediate police assistance," Harper said at the gathering.

Jean-Marc Fournier, Quebec's minister for intergovernmental affairs, said he was surprised Harper would suggest a gun could be a substitute for the presence of police.

"My vision of Canada is certainly not that Canadians and Qubecers must be encouraged to carry out vigilante justice," Fournier told reporters on Tuesday.

"Making that declaration practically makes it legitimate for people to carry out justice themselves and even get access to a firearm to do it, which doesn't correspond to our system of law, our system of justice and our system of protection of the public."

Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair accused Harper Tuesday of using the firearms debate to "divide Canadians" into rural residents versus city-dwellers.

Harper shot down those accusations Wednesday, before adding that other political parties are "anti-gun owners." He emphasized that gun ownership is a responsibility and not a right. He also said gun owners are bound by the Criminal Code of Canada.