The federal long-gun registry does not help keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, says Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, and so should be abolished in favour of a stronger gun-licensing system.

Toews said Sunday there are more effective ways of spending taxpayers' money than to "harass hunters and farmers for not registering long guns."

"The registry does nothing to deal with the issue of who is entitled to own firearms, and that's the licensing issue and we are strong supporters of a strong licensing system," Toews told CTV's Question Period.

"Even the police officers who are opposed to the long-gun registry (and) wildlife and hunting associations support the licensing provisions to ensure that those with criminal records and those who use long guns and other guns for criminal purposes should not be licensed. The police officers I've talked to say there's nothing that the long-gun registry adds that the licensing system doesn't already provide."

Toews's comments come days after RCMP Deputy Commissioner Bill Sweeney told the Commons public safety committee the long-gun registry helps both police officers and the public.

"I believe that there's compelling evidence that the registry promotes officer and public safety," Sweeney said Thursday. "That's a personal opinion."

The Conservatives, however, have long argued that the registry, brought in by the Liberals in the 1990s, has been a waste of money and infringes on the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

A private member's bill to kill the registry, sponsored by Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner, has passed second reading and is now being studied by a Commons committee.

"We do need to make sure we have strong processes in place to make sure that the wrong people don't get their hands on guns," Hoeppner told Question Period. "But the registry does nothing to address that."

In the meantime, the Tories announced this week a one-year extension to an amnesty for long-gun owners who have not yet registered their firearms.

Liberal MP Bob Rae said during his time as Ontario premier, police chiefs in both cities and rural communities praised the registry as a useful tool to track down where guns are in their communities.

Rae said it's not a question of whether people should be allowed to own guns, but whether they should be registered.

"We register dogs, cats, bicycles, cars, we register all kinds of things," Rae told Question Period. "It's a little odd that we wouldn't register guns."